09 February 2009

Student Perceptions of Their Grades

In a recent study of 278 students from an introductory biology course at the University of Minnesota where students were asked to predict their final course grades after each of the four exams given throughout the term, the following are some of the findings:
  • On the first day of class, more than 90% of the students believed they would earn an A or B in the course.
  • Students who earned A's and B's in the course at the end predicted they would earn lower grades than they actually earned. Students who earned C's, D's, and E's predicted they would earn higher grades than they actually earned.
  • Students who earned high grades were more likely to attend class, submit extra assignments for credit, and attend help-sessions than students who earned low grades.
  • On average, it is unlikely that students will significantly improve their grades deep into a semester.

Students are poor predictors of their grades and thus often fail to regulate their learning. First year students are usually not used to the expectations and demands of college level courses, which may explain the reason for their high expectations at the beginning of the course. The students need to be made aware of this and appropriate support put in place to encourage them to participate in order for them to achieve their goals. Perhaps the extra assignments / help-sessions / etc. should be made mandatory to assist first year students to transition into college life.


Jensen, P., Moore, R. (2008). Students' Behaviors, Grades & Perceptions in an Introductory Biology Course. The American Biology Teacher. 70(8), pp483-487.

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