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first year uni grades

(19 Posts)
fridayfreedom Sun 09-Nov-14 19:26:42

Just spoken to DD. She is on the first year of an art subject degree. She got her result for her first asignment this week. She got A* in this subject at A level so was disappointed by her grade. She got a 2.1, 3 marks off a first.
I think shes done really well. She said a few got low 70s and she heard others failed. She was pretty down on herself till I pointed out it is a
2.1. This year doesnt count towards the final degree grade but she really wants to finish the year on a first.
its so early in the course, how can I convince her shes doing fab and that things go up a gear at this level.
Also how can I convince her that tutors can be contacted for feedback and asking is not being a nuisance.
shes been used to being top in her year so I knew it would be hard for her when she met others who were also at this level at A level.

JeanneDeMontbaston Sun 09-Nov-14 19:39:27

Oh, bless her. Of course she's done really well!

I'm a very new and wet-behind-the-ears lecturer in an Arts subject, and you could tell her from me that I really appreciate it when students get in touch.

If she is worried about being a nuisance (though she shouldn't be) she could sit down with the essay and write out a half-dozen questions where she really doesn't understand the feedback/how to apply it/where she went wrong, and then she could use those as a basis for a conversation, so she doesn't find herself rambling.

LineRunner Sun 09-Nov-14 19:40:59

Absolutely good advice there ^^ from Jeanne.

fridayfreedom Sun 09-Nov-14 19:48:47

Its a creative arts degree so not an esssay, a tehnical sketchbook plus practical samples.
I suggested to her that she emails her tutor for feedback but she says "you would say that" what do I know! Shes always been rubbish at asking.
the only feedback she got after she got the mark was to be braver in what she designs

JeanneDeMontbaston Sun 09-Nov-14 21:15:17

Yep, she really needs to ask then.

Btw, in case she doesn't know (and I mention this because it's a common issue), the email format is:

Dear Dr [or Professor] Surname,

Blah blah blah.



If she's not sure of their title she should look it up. This may sound really obvious but loads of students don't know it.

fridayfreedom Sun 09-Nov-14 22:20:33

Thanks for replying.
Am feeling a bit wibbly for her, she is so far away. I know its very early days but shes still my baby.

Kez100 Sun 09-Nov-14 22:51:40

At the moment they are all sussing out what degree work entails. Coming from A levels she will have a different skill set to those who did BTECs and those who come from the mature entry route and, I guess, the first year is to iron out all those differences and allow them to build on skills.

She needs to access her feedback and, if she is determined to improve, then work on that and use the verbal feedback too of "being braver". If there is no direct feedback she needs to go and ask as she is now at degree level and that will help her build her communication confidence for the future. I've just asked my daughter how hers works and she gets a sort of grid with the grade levels on there listed with descriptors. The description of her actual work is then highlighted and, underneath, a list of what she did well and what she needs to improve on. She can see the sort of things she needs to do to get higher in the descriptors but one is "extremely creative outcomes" (this is probably the being braver mentioned) and, like she says, you always hope your work is like that but, sometimes, you just don't quite pull it off so even if you want and hope for a first and put the work in, you still might not meet that criteria in the end and, by the time you see it, it is just to late to do anything about it because you have spent 150 hours on it already!

fridayfreedom Sun 09-Nov-14 23:25:18

Thanks, have just skyped her and she was very chatty and bubbly, so obviously ok tonight.
she said there was a chart with descriptors and a x for where they were gradewise. No other written feedback.
she works incredibly hard and is very passionate about her subject but needs to take it up a gear and I think needs some guidance on how to do that.
I know she will get ratty with me but I will encourage her to seek out the tutor, who she really liked and marked her work.

Kez100 Sun 09-Nov-14 23:54:20

Yeah she needs to talk to them having really looked at those grade grids in detail to see where x's are. I'm purely guessing now that there is a whole raft of descriptors and x's and she will be able to see which bits she got higher in and and which bits lower which will have averaged out to the overall score . Then ask about those, so they can see she has taken in the information already provided.

MillyMollyMama Mon 10-Nov-14 00:09:50

My DD is on arts course and went in with A*s. There is a big difference between a degree and A levels and an A* does not put you on a pedestal regarding ability. There is a lot of talent out there! There are quite a lot of mature students on DDs course and very, very few are given places straight from A levels. DD has found the A level people have to work hard because they lack experience.

In the first year she was a annoyed her first mark but I thought it was quite good. She had not followed the brief to the letter so was marked down. She used a friend who is a professional model for her shoot but they wanted a mock up using a "friend". They were able to tell the difference! Higher marks followed but as none of them counted towards the final degree, it was an exploratory year regarding the standards needed and the amount of work she was prepared to do. She was required to pass the year though. It is not unusual to take a little while to get to grips with the quality of work required and few students are brilliant from day 1. Frankly I do not really understand why your DD is upset. Her mark for a first piece of work sounds pretty good to me.

TsukuruTazaki Mon 10-Nov-14 00:16:41

67 is great for a first piece of work. It is still worth seeking feedback from the tutors though and I'm sure they will be happy to guide her as to what she could improve even further.

University assignments are definitely a step up from sixth form. I got straight As in A-levels without much effort and found I was on 2:1s for most of my first year degree work. I still graduated with a first. She shouldn't feel disheartened at all at this stage. Getting a first is really not the be all and end all but there's no reason why she shouldn't aim for one.

UptheChimney Mon 10-Nov-14 08:24:28

She's going from being top of her class to being in the middle. A few marks off 70 is good, but she'll be in a cohort where they were all top of their class. A Levels are not an indication of how you'll go at university in each assignment, as the work is very different after a few weeks.

It's a life lesson. Some things for her to think about:

Don't focus on the numerical mark. It's the least important thing about the work & the feedback.

Focus on the narrative feedback and comments from her markers. I mark with commentary throughout a piece of work, in dialogue with the work. It takes ages & it really irritates me when all students do is fixate on the mark.

If she goes to see her tutor, she should not mention the mark. And if she does, it should not be "Why didn't I get a First?" In the US, we called this grade grubbing & it's not productive. I won't discuss feedback with a student in this context, and I tell them so.

She needs to enter into a discussion about the development of her work over the years of her degree. The grade/number is not important.

JeanneDeMontbaston Mon 10-Nov-14 09:01:05

Frankly I do not really understand why your DD is upset.

I think, from my limited experience, it is very normal for her to be upset. It should motivate her to get better, which is the whole point. Some people work incredibly hard and won't settle for less than they know they're capable of - and it'd be an odd student who got a high 2.1 in the first bit of work and never felt capable of more.

I agree with upthe that it's not about the raw mark. But it does sound as if she isn't quite sure where to go next with the tutor's feedback.

What's the usual system for feedback? Does the tutor have open office hours?

MillyMollyMama Mon 10-Nov-14 15:02:13

No, it is not normal be be upset. It is normal to think how you can improve and get feedback on how to achieve this! If a student is upset at a high 2:1 grade, how will they feel with a low 2:2 if something goes really wrong? This sounds over-anxious, and the OP's DD needs reassurance that this is not a mark to worry about in any shape or form. Students cannot go through university life beating themselves up in the first year because they are not getting a 1st. It is unrealistic for everyone to get a first, even if you go with all A*s becaue the work and expectations are different. Expectations have to be realistic and a high 2:1, for a first piece of work, is not a reason to be upset. It is a challenge to do better, which may well be perfectly possible.

JeanneDeMontbaston Mon 10-Nov-14 15:07:17

I think it's pretty normal.

Lots of them get upset - there's nothing wrong with it.

And maybe this student never will get a low 2.2. Not everyone does, you know!

Telling students 'how would you feel if you got a low 2.2' is a terrible message. It's lowering expectations when there may be no need. If she expects better than a high 2.1, all power to her, and let's hope she can get in there and approach the tutor, understand the feedback, and get on with it.

UptheChimney Mon 10-Nov-14 15:23:23

Lots of them get upset - there's nothing wrong with it

Agreed -- it's how they deal with it that's important. It's normal to get a bit of a shock at the adjustment from 90%-style marks at school. 67% is an excellent mark.

A further word of advice to the OP's daughter: if she goes in with "Why haven't I got a First?" -- if I were her tutor, the conversation would stop right there. The focus on the number is counterproductive.

The thing is, if a student fixates on the numerical grade, she's not thinking about the work. And she's not learning how to work smarter and better.

Students have unfortunately absorbed some of those X-Factor style attitudes about work, where they focus on the effort, or the hours, or how much they want it ... rather than focussing on learning And you learn by messing up: what matters is what you do next.

JeanneDeMontbaston Mon 10-Nov-14 15:26:46

Yes, agreed.

And I think 'why haven't I got ...' is a bit like saying 'do the work for me, tell me what I should have written'. I expect people get better at this, but I find it quite hard to tell a student what they should have written, without actually telling them the answer! And obviously I don't actually want to do that because it doesn't help.

However, I reckon if the tutor says she should have been 'braver in what she designs' it might be that the tutor is assuming she knew how to push herself but didn't, or that she should feel more confident, and it'd just be useful to know exactly what the tutor liked best and thought could have been pushed further. I wouldn't have any issue getting a question along those lines.

UptheChimney Mon 10-Nov-14 16:07:36

Nor would I.

fridayfreedom Mon 10-Nov-14 17:35:30

Thanks for your replies, all helpful. I take health students on practice so know that uni grading is a world away from A levels. I spend time convincing A* students tha a c or b on a placement is good and it is a truly exceptional student who gets an overall A grade.
DD is ok now she understands the grading. She wasnt focusing on the actual mark . She wants advice on which parts of the process she needs to improve on and some guidance on ways in which she could approach this. She says she is already being braver with her next assignment! Had to remind her that she will have to pay for a new carpet if the paint gets on it!

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