Professor Hits on Promising Method to Boost Students Acceptance of Low Grades: Treats

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Freelance Writer


"Life is like
As Dr. John says, “Grade books are like a box of chocolate…”

Two years ago, Dr. Milo John was grading papers in his office in between classes, imagining with dread the confrontation with one particular student, who was sure to raise the roof in response to the C the professor was about to assign her. In fact, the work deserved a D, but Dr. John spent 2 hours poring over the paper looking for ways to justify upping the grade. He found himself muttering curses about Generation Y (or as he labeled it, “Gen-Whine”).

That,” stated Dr. John, “was when I had the epiphany.”

He thought about dentists and doctors who had to suffer through kids’ whining about drills and injections, and how they handled these similar job-related stressors: cheap toys and candy, given right before leaving to keep these foremost in memory.

Now, when Dr. John has students visit his office for a discussion about grades, students are offered a bowl of candy or a “treasure chest of trinkets.” They are allowed to choose one “prize” if they earn a C, and two if they receive a D or F. He has found this method particularly helpful when students invite their parents to the conference.

Dr. John saw his student evaluation ratings improve after just one semester. “It seems to work especially well at the end of fall semester, to coincide with the holiday break,” he added. The professor plays holiday music softly in the background of his office, which seems to have a soothing effect as students enter his office. He has not decided on a parallel adjunct variable for the summer, but he is considering tropical-themed music such as reggae or calypso.

No legitimate empirical studies have examined this intervention although one attempt surfaced a few months ago. Results pointed to the differential effectiveness of candy over toys, until an investigation revealed corporate involvement that skewed the data. The company and researchers involved cannot be named because the court case is still ongoing.

In the meantime, when asked about possible ramifications of this intervention on student learning and development, Dr. John said, “Hey, I’m just following good pedagogical practice by meeting students at their level.”