During my 20 years of teaching college level mathematics, I’ve frequently had discussions of this type (almost always near the end of the semester):
D/F student: “Oh, I tried so hard in your class, and I really need to pass!”
Me: “make sure that when you study, you do ……” (insert study tips here).
D/F student: “but, I really need to pass this class!”
Note: we’ve moved well beyond the study tips part of the conversation. What I’ve started to do is to say something like this:
“Don’t worry, you’ll be graded fairly. I grade everyone’s problem 1, then everyone’s problem 2, and so on. I often don’t even know whose paper I am grading when I grade the problem. Then at the end, I enter everyone’s numbers into the spread sheet, do the calculations, and move the names off of the view screen when I do the course grade assignments. I don’t even know who is getting what grade until I enter the grades into the university system!”
At this point, their face falls.
My conjecture: they are NOT looking for “fairness”. 🙂
Unfortunately, many don’t see a grade as something that reflects their performance in the class or their level of knowledge of the material. Instead they see it as a commodity that I have and that they want.