Professor says students should choose own grades to help reduce stress

US business professor Dr Richard Watson proposes students work with 'only positive comments' and can suggest their own assessment grades if they feel 'unduly stressed'

Rachael Pells
Education Correspondent
Wednesday 09 August 2017 14:41
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The University of Georgia Terry College of Business
The University of Georgia Terry College of Business

A university professor has found what he believes to be a solution to work-based stress by allowing his students to choose their own grades.

Dr Richard Watson, a Business teacher from the University of Georgia, US, has proposed a “stress reduction policy” for his classes because “emotional reactions to stressful situations can have profound consequences for all involved”.

According to his course syllabi, obtained by Campus Reform, if students feel “unduly stressed” by grades given for any assessment during the course, they can “email the instructor indicating what grade [they] think is appropriate, and it will be so changed” with “no explanation” required.

Students who feel stressed by “group dynamics” are also permitted to walk away from their work groups without explanation, and will only be graded on their individual work thereafter.

Responding to the attention his policies have received, Dr Watson stated that his syllabus is yet to be confirmed.

“There is no such policy on the current website”, he said in an email.

“I’ve been making changes over the last week in preparation for going live next week when classes start.”

According to the original document published on the university site, students taking part in the professor’s Data Management and Energy Informatics classes will also be required to have “open book and open notes” tests, “designed to assess low level mastery of the course material”.

For in-class presentations, “only positive comments” are to be given, with any necessary suggestions for improvement in future presentations “communicated by email”.

While Dr Watson did note that the laissez-faire policies “might hinder the development of group skills and mastery of the class material,” the outcomes are ultimately the responsibility of the student, he said.

He promises to “provide every opportunity for [students] to gain high level mastery", however.

In a statement, the dean of the University of Georgia's Terry College of Business said the syllabus “did not conform with the university’s rigorous expectations”.

“I have explained this discrepancy to the professor, and he has removed the statement from his syllabus,” said Dean Benjamin C. Ayers.

“Rest assured that this ill-advised proposal will not be implemented in any Terry classroom.”

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