I want to know what my current grade in a particular class is. The professor says she refuses to tell us our grades. The syllabus mentions the same policy.
Is this normal? What should I do?
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I've been that professor several times. Much to my own chagrin, there often is no such thing as "the current grade". On a typical day during a typical semester, there are scores for homeworks, quizzes, midterms and whatever other assessments have been completed so far, and there is a formula in the syllabus that computes a "final score" from all the assessment scores, but:
the formula assumes all scores to be known, not just the first few. Extrapolating is not trivial, particularly if the rules include things like "the lowest homework score will be dropped" or "later midterms will be weighted more" or "the first homework will be dropped if the next ones show improvement".
the cutoffs for the grades are rarely decided upon in advance; they often are determined by looking through students's work (the final midterm or exam is particularly good for that, being fresh in the lecturer's mind) and clustering students into categories (e.g., if you see someone doing really good work, you put that student into the A-cluster, so the cutoff for A will be no higher than their score). Some lecturers also curve based on pre-determined ratios (something I avoid, but I've heard of lecturers forced to do this by the admininstration), but again it is impossible to predict the final relative position of a student just based on their current status, as some students improve heavily during the semester.
So computing a "current grade" is a nontrivial exercise in forecasting -- and a thankless one, as the reward curve is biased to the negative (getting students' grades right will net you some thanks; getting them wrong will cause trouble all the way up to disciplinary action). Teaching is hard enough without it.
There may be an actual reason for the policy. In particular your professor may take more into consideration than can be captured in any intermediate "average". For an example of what can happen, I once took a physics course that had five exams, the last being the final. My grades for the exams were, in order: F, D, C, B, and A. My "average" all along the way was pretty dismal. The final grade I was assigned (I won't say earned, I guess) was A. I was a happy camper. The prof actually had a reputation as being very strict.
Without knowing more it is impossible to judge whether the professor is being rational or not.
For what it's worth, the reason for the first F was that I "crammed" and stayed up all night before the exam. Well, one reason, anyway. It was open-book, also.
The professor says she refuses to tell us our grades. The syllabus mentions the same policy.
Is this normal?
Normal is relative. From my perspective, having grades per class isn't normal. Your situation is clearly different, but you haven't given any information which would help us know what it is.
What should I do?
Accept it and move on with your life.
You sound like you are very concerned about your past grades. Students who pay a lot of attention to their past grades tend to believe they cannot control what they learn, because it is a fixed number. Psychologists call this an "external locus of control." External locus of control can reduce the amount of effort students put into learning.
Students who pay a lot of attention to what they need to do in the future in order to learn have an "internal locus of control." They believe their decisions determine what they will learn. These students tend to put in more effort and study more efficiently.
It is a legitimate pedagogical approach for professors to refuse to discuss grades with students. When doing so, it is important to guide students to thinking about things they can choose to do which will help them learn. This can help students view their futures as being something they believe they can control by making good choices. Such beliefs lead to good choices.
Of course, it's possible your professor does not want to discuss your grades because they do not know what they are.
Regardless of the reasons, it is unlikely your professor is required to provide grades before the end of the course.
Personally I think an instructor ought to maintain a running grade count, but it is conceivable that one might not. Might only do the data entry and calculation at the end. Or maybe wants to retain ability to finesse the grades a bit (will only be done in your favor unless a snake, though).
I doubt there is a policy requiring the prof to give interim grading instruction, but of course you could check. There is a big difference between "required" and optimal.
For what it is worth, I went to a school that had formal, published interim grades every 4 weeks, during 16 week semesters. Most people hated this more than like it since it could create academic sanctions...
Probably your professor doesn't believe in computing grades in intermediary stages for the subject of your class. Depending on the topic, the only interesting thing might be how qualified you are at the end of your class, when you can try to put all things together.
Let's look at a (fictitious and ridiculous) example. If you are able to work with 100% of all concepts taught in the first 88% of the class, your "intermediary grade" might look like a solid "A" at that point, right? Now imagine a future obstetrics doctor who only has learnt everything about the first eight months of gravidity.
And there is this saying even in finance: "Past Performance Is Not An Indicator Of Future Results". So you should concentrate on improving (to achieve optimal "future results"). Don't attach too much importance to intermediary grades. Not everything in academic studies is made of little portions you can check off one by one; sometimes you gotta catch 'em all before they start making sense ;)
I've actually seen this a lot, and I think it's completely reprehensible. The reasoning is ostensibly that the only "grade" is the final grade, which cannot be accurately determined until after the final exam.
Unfortunately, you're not going to get anywhere with this instructor trying to get her to budge on this. You might have more luck with asking her a more noncommittal question, such as "How am I doing in the course?" or by asking her for advice about how you can do better (even if you're already doing well).
As someone who's TA'd for professors with this ridiculous policy, I can tell you that badgering the TA won't help. The TA doesn't know either. Really.