Dealing with bad grades…
… In the plural.
It’s really difficult. Engineering is difficult! But then, degrees aren’t supposed to be easy.
You know that graph that shows what success really looks like:
Well, it’s true. Except sometimes (like right now in my case), there’s an enormous downward spike, and weirdly it keeps sinking. See, in term 1 of this year, I was really upset at getting 65% in a lab report that was only worth 20% of that module. Skip forward to the beginning of term three, and I got a 55% mark back for a project (worth 45% of a module) – I couldn’t believe it. My first ever 2:2; I didn’t even know how to react. And now, I get my first ever 3rd in something. 45%, to be exact (for 25% of the same module as last time!). So, after getting over the shock, what is the best way to deal with this kind of situation?
What I did, was contact the module leader to have a meeting. For all three of the marks that I have mentioned above, I have asked for feedback. Even though I’ve never had a mark change (despite on one occasion being told that there was a mistake and it was supposed to be higher, only to be emailed later to say that actually it was the correct mark after all), I have always accumulated useful feedback by speaking to the module leader/marker in person. It’s useful to understand their thought processes when they look through your work in person. Certain things jump out that to them that don’t to you, and that’s where you can learn useful new skills or pick up on some suggestions that can be used on future assignments.
It’s also good to understand the marker as much as possible. Each module is different, and each marker/module leader marks in their own individual way. Each is an expert in their field and will have a reason behind the way in which they mark the work. I really do think it is invaluable to have just a 30 minute discussion with them (even easier now online with Microsoft Teams) – it can make all the difference.
Obviously, it would be very nice to get an array of brilliant grades without any mishaps. Until now, I’d always ignored the mantra that ‘you learn more from your mistakes’, because I’d much rather not make any mistakes at all. But now, given all that has happened, I can see the good that can come from making mistakes. I’ve gained a lot more feedback by inquiring after the work in which I didn’t do so well, than I have from work in which I have done well. In a way, with good grades, you don’t know why your mark is good and therefore you don’t know which things to do the same next time.
But a greater thing to mention than all of this is the impact grades can have on the individual. The thing about grades is that, as a student, you hold so much on them. You spend so much time and energy investing yourself and your life around your degree – getting grades that you try so hard to achieve can increase confidence. Obviously, the opposite (getting a bad grade) can degrade confidence and leave you uncertain. It’s at this point that I think it’s important to step back, and look at how much you, as an individual, rely on good marks to sustain your happiness.