Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Three Tips for Protecting Students' Privacy

by Meg Elias 

When I was taking college biology in 1989, my professor motivated us by posting our exam grades on the classroom door with first and last names attached. We would rush up to the list of 300 and look for our names, ranked from highest score at the top, to lowest at the bottom. It may have been an effective motivator for some students, but it’s not considered an acceptable practice in 2016. When discussing or distributing graded items in the classroom, instructors should be mindful of students’ privacy. These three tips can help you avoid divulging information about an individual’s grades: 

  1. Place written grades on the second page of an assignment or test. As you pass out graded homework or exams, other students should not be able to see an individual’s grade on the front of the document. Placing the grade on the second page allows the student to choose whether or not to show their score to their classmates. 
  2. Have a pen and paper handy to write down a grade when a student asks during class time. Sometimes a student will approach the teaching station and ask you to look up a grade on Desire2Learn. Instead of stating the score verbally, write it down and hand the paper to the student. You can also jot down your office hours so that the student can follow up after class. Never allow the student to look at the gradebook screen if other students’ grades are visible. 
  3. Rehearse a standard reply to student inquiries that might violate another student’s privacy. If a student makes a comparison between their grade and a peer’s grade, you can reply with, “I cannot discuss any other student’s grades with you, but I would be glad to discuss your score during my office hours.” 
Remember that students have the right to share as much or as little as they wish about their scores, whether they are at the top or the bottom of the class. 

If you have more suggestions or if you would like to discuss teaching tips, email Meg Elias (clarkm1@star.lcc.edu), or stop by the Center for Teaching Excellence, TLC 324.