How should I go about fighting a grade that I feel was given out unfairly?

I’m an Education student, and per requirement, had to take an Aesthetic Education class, which is SUPPOSED to teach us about how to incorporate art and creativity into education. Key word being “supposed”. However, the professor was only on her second semester of teaching, and we did nothing but projects, like making sock monkeys and paper mache animal hybrids.

She told us as long as we handed everything in, we would get a passing grade. This included all of our projects, some reflections on four art events we had to go to, a two page paper on this article we read, and a writing/drawing journal that was supposed to “allow us to express our creativity freely”, all of which I completed successfully. She never gave out rubrics for anything, never explained what she wanted, and never graded anything, so we never knew if she was happy or unhappy with our work. When myself and my classmates asked how we got our midterm grades(everyone got a B+). She said that this grade was a “save point” and that “we would see where everyone goes from there”.

I came out with a C+, which completely ruined my near perfect GPA.

Normally, I wouldn’t be this upset if I got a bad grade, because at least I knew where I went wrong and I could take responsibility for it. But I’m a good student, I worked very hard in this class, and this C+ doesn’t make sense. I’m worried about fighting this grade because it’s going to be very he-said-she-said type of case, and since she’s a professor, she has the upper hand because there’s no paper or electronic trail of what we did. She could say whatever she wants because as far as I know, there’s no proof of what we did.

I’ve already politely emailed the professor about the situation, simply trying to make sense of it all. She had not responded, and now I’m at a loss.

I don’t know how to go about this, and I desperately need some sort of advice.

I can give you some perspective on this from a teacher’s viewpoint. I teach at an extremely competitive school and have many students complaining about their grades.

From your description, the prof in this class sounds like a dud. As a matter of professional ethics, she owes you some explanation of how your grade was determined and disclosure of the specific assignment grades you got. If you asked for that via email and she’s not responding, after several reminders, about all you can do is complain to the dept. head, who might or might not put some heat on her. But with this type of prof, it’s still unlikely to get your grade changed.

If you can organize with other students in the class who unjustly got bad grades, the chances of some response from the dept. chair increase. The issue here is not the grade you got, but the prof’s neglect to explain to you how the grade was determined.

Another way to respond is to give the prof a lousy review in student evals. If she gets enough lousy reviews, maybe they’ll fire her. But again, this is not going to help in changing your grade. A variation on this is going to the student newspaper in a group and having them write an expose of the lousy teaching. Not all student newspapers have the guts to do this, but publicity can be a huge deterrent or correction to bad professional behavior.

I was once in your exact situation – I was taking a summer class (at the same school where I teach now) in which I needed at least a B- so I could get back into my “real” school which had suspended me. The prof gave me a C+. I’d done outstanding work and attended every class. When I asked for an explanation, she said the C+ was because I’d been late to one class. I said the lateness was due to a work crisis that day in my full time job, I felt the penalty for this one instance was excessive, and unless she changed my grade to B- to allow my return to my “real” school, she was never going to hear the end of it from me. I said all this as tactfully as possible without threatening anything except being a pest. She changed my grade to B-.

So from my personal experience as a student, it is possible to get a grade changed, but as a teacher I haven’t done this for any of the dozens of supplicants out of 1,000+ students over the last five years, unless I made a mistake in the grading or they convince me I graded them unfairly. And this does happen not so infrequently, so I keep detailed records of the assignment grading, plus copies of the assignments, and always consider the student appeal in good faith. I’ve had grade disputes go on for almost a year after the class ended.

What does your syllabus say about grading? What does your college’s faculty manual/handbook say about professors’ responsibilities? Where I work, there’s a time limit between when the semester starts and when professors are expected to hand out the first grade, and it’s well before midterms. I’d do some research then politely reach out to the department chair with your concerns. In our university, student feedback is taken seriously.

1 What does the syllabus say?

2 You never got any grades?

3 Was there an online grade portal at your college? What does it show for that class?

I would immediately make an appointment with the head of the department (would have done this during the semester if I was not getting grades) talking about this. This is completely not with the way thngs work at a college.
My DD had a class where she wasn’t getting graded work back and she went the Dept head and they started getting work handed back.