I Don't Care About My Grades
Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes
I find that my grades rarely measure what I expect.
How many times have you gotten a grade back where you did poorly even though you had studied for a week straight? Or what about when you ace that quiz that you completely forgot was even scheduled?
Probably only about 5% of my time in physical therapy school have I thought, wow, that exam/project/quiz/assignment grade accurately reflects my knowledge on the topic and the amount of work I put into it.
Recently, I failed a pretty important assignment in a class.
I was graded by my peers on my ability to perform an evaluation and give a differential diagnosis. I was nervous. Not only was I being judged by a group of 4 student observers acting as clinical instructors, but I was also going to be graded by my “patient.” The interesting aspect of the assignment was that the patient was in turn being graded by me and the clinical instructors on her performance of playing an authentic patient. Talk about pressure, am I right?
At the end of our role-play, I breathed a sigh of relief. While I missed a component of the overall diagnosis, I left feeling pretty satisfied with my performance. One of my strengths is my ability to be straight with myself. Sure, there were some questions I could have delved into a little more, but overall I thought that I actually did an aggressive evaluation. I got great feedback and suggestions for improvement from my peers that was also in line with my thoughts. I had studied hard and prepared to the best of my ability. Maybe I wouldn't get an A+, but definitely nothing below a B.
A few days later my grade was posted. I nonchalantly logged into the grading portal to find a 65%.
My stomach dropped. Immediately, choice words started floating in my head. I was furious, but my anger soon turned to embarrassment.
Was I seriously that bad at this whole physical therapist thing? Am I just walking through life overly confident in my abilities?
After speaking to my professor about the disparity, I learned that I was not the failure that I made myself out to be. Whew! My student clinical instructors had actually scored me the same way I would have graded myself; however, my patient did score me fairly low. Because my patient's grade counted equally as the clinical instructors' grades, my final grade suffered. But honestly, that's something I can deal with.
There will always be some patients who won't score me 100% or maybe even 30%, no matter how much effort I put into their case. Actual patients may not care about any of my future certifications or knowledge that I bring to the table. In the end, aggregate patient outcomes are going to be the most important grade, and although there will be always some outliers, this is arguably the most valuable item to structure my practice around.
So maybe it's not that I don't care about my grades, but that I realize their fallibility.
Rubrics aren't always created equally, professors sometimes ask irrelevant questions on exams, and bias isn't going anywhere.
Grades are just trying their best to keep us energized and motivated. Acknowledging the feedback is always a smart idea, but I also get to choose what to accept and place value upon. In this case, I chose to place the value back on me.
Hannah Belles, SPT, is a student at the University of Florida. You can connect with her on Twitter at @HannahBelles93.