Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and the Art of Grading Papers
Admittedly, I was not the best student during my undergraduate studies. In my small college town, there were too many distractions. However, when a professor I really respected told us about our final paper, I started early and spent hours in the library doing research (this was before the Internet). When I turned in that crisp paper with the perfect staple in the top left corner, I felt proud of my accomplishment.
When I picked up the graded paper, I tucked it into my backpack and waited until I was alone to read the professor’s comments. I felt sure he would be positive, and mention my ability to accomplish things if I applied myself, since I hadn’t done much of that throughout the quarter.
In red at the bottom of the paper was a large C+ and only one comment: “You can’t write. I suggest getting some writing help.” Devastated and shocked, I left the course and university with a feeling that I couldn’t write.
Feedback can help or hurt self-confidence
Looking back on it now, it seems silly to let one person have that much influence. But I figured, if this well-educated professor whom I respected thought I couldn’t write, it certainly was true.
As I made my way in the corporate world, and eventually into education, I remembered that comment and felt driven to prove him wrong. In fact, when I published my first book, I sent him a copy, along with a copy of the paper and a note saying, “thank you for the motivation.” The ‘thank you’ was very tongue in cheek; he deeply affected my confidence in a way that did me, and possibly other students, a great disservice.
As I get ready to read and grade countless projects and papers during finals week (writing this blog is a good way to procrastinate), I think about the amount of influence a professor can have on students, for better or for worse.
How to get an “A” in emotional intelligence
My professor, I would venture to say, was lacking in emotional intelligence skills; specifically, in empathy and social grace. Perhaps he developed those skills over the years. That’s the great thing about emotional intelligence; we can improve it over time.
In my new Human Relations textbook, available this fall, we discuss how emotional intelligence is the root of everything to do with human relations: from our level of empathy for others to our ability to read social cues, such as body language.
If you’re a student, remember your professor is just one person. His or her opinion on one paper, one project, or one grade shouldn’t influence how you feel about your abilities. The true measure of your success comes from applying what you’ve learned, not always about the grade you received.
To my fellow professors, let’s not forget the amount of influence we have on a student’s self-confidence. What if one negative comment is taken as truth, and the student doesn’t bother to improve throughout her lifetime because she assumes she just can’t do it? If this is the case, we haven’t done our job.
Not that every student should get an “A.” But the comments we provide should be the building blocks of self-improvement. Feedback should be detailed enough so students know what they did well, and what they need to do to improve.
Budget cuts, larger class sizes, and under-prepared students are all part of our reality in education today. Does this mean student shouldn’t get positive and constructive feedback? Of course not.
Even though it will take significantly longer, I’m going to spend time reading each final paper and providing constructive feedback. After all, it’s my job. But more than that, helping people is why I got into education in the first place.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a pile of papers to get to.
Professor Portolose Dias’ Human Relations college textbook will soon be published by Flat World Knowledge. Her Human Resource Management textbook is available now. Also available in print and digital formats.