What are you teaching us anyway?

We teach a lot of courses and specific skills in college, but what we are really trying to do is prepare them for life and work.   It's as easy to get caught up in short term thinking in colleg as well as in business.  One of the places this is true is grades.

Students and professors have different perspectives on grades.  Proessors tend to think that grades are output based-- the natural result of the work you have done and the learning it has helped you to achieve.  Students accept that if they get good grades, but if their grades are not what they hoped, they often  want to focus on inputs--rheir effort level.  When these two perspectives can't be blended successfully, the result may be a grade appeal.  As department head, I hear those appeals.  Yesterday was one of those days.

Here's the story.  A professor wrote to three students as she was finalizing grades, telling them that certain assignments had not been received.  Two of the students immediately responded with the missing items.  The third instead began to argue, insisting that he had turned in the assignments.  The professor responded that the items had not been received.  The student discovered that he had sent the assignments to another person with the same last name as the professor. To make a long story includng over two dozen e-mail messages short, the student ultimately submitted one of the two assignments nearly two weeks late.  Final grades had been posted for a week.  The student wanted the professor to grade the assignment and raise his grade.  The professor refused.  I supported the professor,.  The student leftt angry.  Today he sent a message  asking what I was trying to teach him anyway.  It was clear he knew the course material but no one would give him credit for it, he had tried really hard, and it is my fault he would lose his scholarship.

What were we trying to teach him anyway?  Important lessons for life and work.

**  I can measure your performance.  I can't measure your effort.

**  Excuses don't substitute for results

**  If I need it today, sending it tomorrow is probably irrelevant

**  It's your responsibility to verify that the work gets to me

**  Getting angry and argumentative doesn't help your case

These can be harder lessons to learn than accounting techniques.  But they'll be useful, always, in any field.

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Barbara McElroy is Associate Professor of Accounting and Head of the Department of Accounting and Information Systems at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, PA.  Before beginning a career in academe, Barbara worked in both public and private accounting settings, and owned several businesses.  She is particularly interested in the interaction of accounting and public policy.  Barbara will discuss current events with the interest of students, faculty, and practicing professionals in mind.

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