The major concern of most college students having started upon the learning experience is to work out how to improve their grades. It is tempting to say that this can be achieved simply through hard work, which of course is only one element of the answer. However, in isolation, hard work might not enable the student to achieve the improvement that he or she desires or indeed needs. Yes, it is the foundation for improvement but the hard work needs to be directed in the right areas to have positive results.
Perhaps the first, and most important, element for improving grades is the acquisition of knowledge about the subjects and disciplines that is being studied. To gain knowledge requires dedicating oneself to two specific tasks, which are research and discussion.
Research, as some of the most accomplished academics have suggested, is to conquer the art of investigation in order to fill in the gaps in one’s understanding about a particular subject, or part thereof, and the theories and practical ideas that have been published by others over the years. For example, if a student is studying for a business degree it would be important to research more about corporate strategy and competitive advantage within a commercial environment and how these particular aspects of business work. In this case, studying the works of academics such as Michael Porter and Johnson and others, who wrote what is considered by many to be one of the foremost business study books, ‘Exploring Corporate Strategy.’
However, it is not just the reading of these works that adds to a student’s knowledge and improvement of grades. It is the understanding of what is written and questioning the reasons that have led to the authors conclusions where the true value of knowledge lies.
The second aspect of gaining knowledge is discussion. Discussion is important because it helps to broaden ones mind and, additionally, provides a greater depth of understanding about the issues that are being studied. We all have different ideas and perceptions about what things mean and, in a study environment debate will help the student to deepen their knowledge of other viewpoints and opinions, thus allowing the student to formulate their own argument and heighten their critical approach to and analysis of the subject matter. In other words, by discussion with others we are able to extend the depth and context of our existing knowledge and put this to good use in terms of learning.
When examiners are reviewing the work submitted by students, the highest grades will not be reserved for those who can show through citations that they have at least read the current literature related to the subject matter. Rather, the improved grades will be awarded to those students who have shown, through analysis and critical review, that they have gained sufficient knowledge and understanding to be able to formulate and express their own personal opinion. Moreover, this indicates to the examiner that the student has committed their time to further their learning objectives and, consequently, his or her skills and competencies related to the subject.
There is no magical wand that a student can wave to improve his or her grade. It takes hard work and effort. However, it is important that this work and effort is focused in the right direction, in other words related specifically to the subject matter, for them to achieve the required grade improvements.