Grade Inflation

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by John Bear, Feb 19, 2001.

  1. Ian Anderson

    Ian Anderson Active Member

    There may be a difference in grading methods between European and USA colleges & universities.
    In the UK when I took classes way back in history, and more recently my daughter, credit was awarded solely on exam results.
    Whereas in the USA grading is usually a mix of homework, class participation, and exams including open book exams.
    The USA method makes it easier to obtain higher grades. One USA class I took you were exempt from exams if you maintained high marks in homework (probably the hardest class I ever took).
  2. Dave Wagner

    Dave Wagner Active Member

    This is a tempest in a teacup... Harvard is so selective that the University might actually be making students dumber and it would be difficult to measure. Of course, I'm exaggerating a little to make the point. That is, give me a genius and a good library, and s/he will learn at a high level no matter how many kinks are in the curriculum and academic system.
  3. Go_Fishy

    Go_Fishy New Member

    I had a 4.0 GPA in my master's program and was definitely not the only one in my class. Everything below B was a failing grade. An A did not mean outstanding work, it simply meant good job, nothing to brag about for a month.

    However, I have to say that all the people I knew who had very good GPAs worked hard and were great students. So I never perceived the system as a big problem. You could still excel by publishing stuff, presenting at conferences, admission to honor societies etc.

    Oh yes. At my home university grading is from 1 (excellent) to 6 (academic shame/not attended). 4 is the lowest passing grade, and some professors never give 1s. The system is frustrating because much emphasis is placed on final exams and those huge European term papers at the end of the term (20-25 pages, 1.5-spaced). I prefer the American system where the final grade consists of many different portions.
  4. AUTiger00

    AUTiger00 New Member

    Where I went to grad school all the courses in the first year were curved/weighted so that the class average was a 3.0. We had people who were on academic probation and others that washed out.
    In the second year all the classes were curved/weighted so that the class average was a 3.3. No one failed out second year.
    You certainly had to put in the time. The course load was ridiculous, upwards of 12+ hours a day on many days with class and reading/assignments, but it was apparent that if you put forth the effort/did the work you were getting a B (at minimum).
  5. edowave

    edowave Active Member

  6. Griffin

    Griffin Crazy About Psychology

    As much as it's inferred with prestigious schools, I just haven't seen grade inflation at any of the schools I've attended. I've seen tons of people fail classes despite working very hard -- I've even seen pitifully ill people get Ds and Fs because they couldn't study as much as average.

    Overall, I think curve grading is malarkey. If I miss 1/12th of the questions, I don't expect to make a 26% and get recommended to drop the course (true story). I think we should be graded vs. the material, not how well another student does. It drives me nuts when I hear about Prof. X giving 10 As, 15 Bs, 45 Cs etc as a standard every year. If 15 people get a perfect score, are there 10 Bs and 15 As? I really think it's unethical to judge people on a curve like that.
  7. Go_Fishy

    Go_Fishy New Member

    Ultimately, a good professor (course/college/...) should strive to have as many students as possible successfully complete their classes; and by successfully I mean having developed a good understanding of the course contents and having used their brains occasionally.

    If this professor then decides to give everyone who makes it a fantastic grade, so be it. If I work hard and get an A, that's good enough for me. It's none of my business what grades other students get. After all, I study for my own growth, and not to compare myself to others.
  8. bazonkers

    bazonkers New Member

    I earned 5 credits in Physics back when I was a lazy undergraduate fresh out of high school thanks to a curve. I had a 27 average and got a C+ for that wonderful display of knowledge. I can't complain, however, as I did use those 5 credits towards my BS degree when I finally decided to finish it years later.
  9. PsychPhD

    PsychPhD New Member

    The debate may be circular ...

    ... but I am fast approaching the appointment deadline for classes for the second fall term at one of my programs, after receiving no assignments for the last summer and early fall terms. Conventional wisdom at the program is more than two terms with no assignments = silent termination from future assignments.

    The program is a small, private university in the Northeast with an online program that dwarfs its campus-based offerings. My student evaluations have been 50/50 love-hate because I have always approached my work with the mindset and expectation that online students need to work just as hard and perform to the same level as students in campus based classes.

    Frankly, I have grown weary with the "snowflake" factor of many of my students. Several have complained that they have "never" had their work criticized before. Some assert they have never taken an exam. One actually stated, in the entirety of her collegiate studies, she had never taken a course which "required" that she utilize the library.

    Stay tuned ...

  10. me again

    me again Well-Known Member

    I too work for an online university. I get paid big bucks, but commensurately, I do a helluva lot of work for that money. My pay scale is probably equivalent to being a crew chief at McDonalds on the midnight shift, after all is said and done. :eek:

    I too have given out quite a few low grades recently, but conversely, I've never seen this many substandard students admitted into the program -- at least not since the economy took a dive. It seems that the lower the economy goes, the lower the enrollment standards become. :eek:

    I've been giving out a lot of low grades recently, but conversely, I'm also documenting WHY. That's the "time factor" that brings my pay down to being a crew chief at McDonalds on the midnight shift.

    All is well in academia. :) I think? :rolleyes:
  11. Han

    Han New Member

    I didn't read all the posts, but the issue at the schools i have taught at is on thing.... if you are a "hard grader", the students grade you down on YOUR evaluations, then you may not get rehired or get tenure. This is the reason why many junior faculty grade student more easily than they normally would.

    I am particularly interested in this thread, but will come back when I have more time to discuss......
  12. lovetheduns

    lovetheduns New Member

    The only time I can really recall in undergrad that I received a grade on a curve was in an advanced accounting II class. Our professor was incredible but honestly some of the coursework was brutal and for the life of me,

    Honestly, for most of my adult academic career, I tend to be the "set the curve" student (as was in high school-- my first few college years were NOT glorious but rather dismal due to lack of caring and preferring to ride horses and be at the barn versus actually attending class nevermind studying *lol*). Not tooting my own horn, but I take exams very well (so there is a lot of learning, a lot of sometimes luck, and an exceptional memory).

    Anyhoo, I received a B+ in my advanced accounting II course. There was NO WAY I received that grade based on my actual coursework and exams. My exams were exceptionally flawed. *lol* I think I recall making a 50 something on one exam *LOL*.

    I know our professor graded to a very soft curve and I think I squeaked out with a B+ because I did call her, came to class early, stayed late. e-mailed questions and essentially did everything under the sun to try and grasp the material.

    In my first semester of grad school at UMBC, one of my courses graded to a hard curve. The prof had on her syllabus that even a 93 would not necessarily equal an A. Her midterm was excessively difficult and she was a nit picky grader (It took me about 12 hours open book from beginning to end) and I made an 86). My group project lasted the entire semester with deliverables each week or so. I was convinced she abhorred our project. In the end, I received a final grade of 99/100. I was an A. I cringe to know what others had made on their midterms and projects. I know one of my project team members has years in the IT industry and only eeked out a 70 something on the midterm.

    On the other hand, this summer I am taking a Finance course through Harvard Summer School. The lecture and section times are demanding (in terms of hours each week). The homework is pretty "tough" i.e. no gimme questions except maybe one. I think my last homework took me 8 hours beginning to end to complete and I made a 100 (first finance course I have taken where almost all of my answers are essays explaining why the formula works, etc *LOL*).

    I studied over 32 hours for the midterm and had missed that the TA had said that the Prof uses a liberal curve on the midterm. *LOL* I wish I had realized that going into the exam.

    I was pleasantly surprised that the midterm was by no means as difficult as the graded homework. I honestly think this is fair, who in the world if they are working on an accounting problem or finance problem will refuse to use a resource in the real world? Most of my accounting courses (except auditing) allowed open book-- heck even in my advanced accounting II course we were allowed open book, but the open book sure as heck didn't help if you still did not grasp fully the theories and processes.

    Now on the other hand, during my undergrad a good friend of mine was also taking the same course work (He was interested in becoming a CPA and already had a bachelor's). He greatly benefited from the curves as accounting unfortunately was not his forte. He has decided against a second career as a CPA after discovering a love for Finance (he performs exceedingly well in his Master's program).

    One thing that I think has dumbed down US universities, high schools, and programs is the exceedingly common use of multiple choice tests. Both the midterm at UMBC and in my Finance class at Harvard did not offer multiple choices but rather made you go through a process to show you TRULY understand the coursework. It is either a) you get it or b) you don't. Nothing is really left to chance of a 25 - 20% chance of getting the problem right and then higher degree of chance of getting the problem right through selective guessing and elimination (or the fact that some professors re-use questions from the publisher and students find these answer keys on the internet to "study from").

    I have been in some courses where the prof ONLY regurgitates the slide that the publisher created without "teaching" the material-- and I think at the end of the day since there was not really *any* true teaching, the prof is left with the need to HAVE to curve since even the better students in the course did not master the material. (I have experienced this at high ranked public universities such as UNC CH, community colleges, private schools, etc).

    One thing I have noticed with my Harvard Summer School course, the professor is an INCREDIBLE teacher as are his TAs. He may use the publisher slides, but you learn an immense amount of information and the why far more than I have experienced as the norm at other schools. He truly is exceptional (and no wonder why students at the College tried to appeal to keep him as an Econ lecturer after his maximum term for a non-tenured lecturer had passed). I have to admit with chargin, I have missed that type of "distance learning" where I can miss out from the really incredible professors who have a mastery and love of teaching (thank god for video).
  13. Dave Wagner

    Dave Wagner Active Member

    Subject matter is an issue as well. On average students seem to like me more when I'm not teaching statistics, yet my teaching methods are virtually identical.
  14. Rob Coates

    Rob Coates New Member

    I had an English professor in college in the 70s that was known for being very demanding and a tough grader. The final project for the class was to write a paper on some piece of classic literature. After the papers were turned in and graded, this professor was so disgusted with the quality of the work, that at the end of the class, he threw them all in the trash can and made us come up and dig our papers out of the trash to see what grade we got. All but two of us in the class got Fs. I got a C and my buddy got an A. That was the only C I ever received the whole four years I was in school but I was more proud of that C than I was of most of the As I got in other classes.
  15. Dave Wagner

    Dave Wagner Active Member

    Obviously, your professor was insufficiently trained and compensated for his then current position.
  16. basrsu

    basrsu Member

    Obviously, your professor was insufficiently trained and compensated for his then current position.

    Either that, or the students were insufficiently trained for their then current positions. :)

  17. Dave Wagner

    Dave Wagner Active Member

    Incompetence is not academic rigor or academic freedom; it's just incompetence... What I mean specifically is that any dummy can make a class hard by refusing to articulate assignments clearly (such as giving clear instructions about how an assignment should have been approached after the fact) or testing over material that could not reasonably be expected within the current lesson objectives. Of course, students can make a class more difficult than it should be if they are not prepared for the level of study required by the course or refusing / failing to follow assignment instructions.
  18. Go_Fishy

    Go_Fishy New Member

    Obviously, you have never taken an Intro to Lit. class, Dave. Otherwise, you'd know that college students are capable of writing an unbelievable amount of crap. ;) And I don't mean crap in terms of poor preparation. I mean crap in terms of a total and utter lack of thought.

    I had a professor who once returned our papers in little paper coffins playing Chopin's funeral march in the classroom's stereo system. She left the classroom without a word. She'd come back a minute later and gave us a lecture we'd never forget on what we had done to a literary masterpiece.

    She hadn't even graded our papers. And you know what? We said, "Thank you ma'am," and rewrote our essays. All of us.

    Ah, that was a good professor!
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 17, 2009
  19. basrsu

    basrsu Member

    I agree, Go Fishy.

    As an online English professor, I see more and more students who are ill equipped and prepared for college academia. The prevalent disposition of many students, it appears, is that to get an A--certainly a passing score--is to do the work. Only.

    Well, there's more to the's not about just doing the work. It's about doing the work WELL. Just because a college English professor threw papers in the trash that included only two passing papers does not mean he/she was in the wrong. We don't have enough information. I can say, however, that to immediately blame the professor is part of what this thread is about...grade inflation for all the wrong reasons.

  20. BillDayson

    BillDayson New Member

    Professors who motivate students into rising to a professional standard are among the best professors, in my opinion.

    I've had professors who assigned some task very early in the semester and then shocked the class by grading just about everyone very badly on it. The bad grades were usually accompanied by some scathing commentary to the assembled class about how their work was simply unsatisfactory and that everyone was going to have to do a lot better.

    Scary. Some students quickly ran for safety with their drop slips, but the remainder listened up, hit their books and carefully crafted their subsequent assignments. By the end of the class there was a noticable esprit de corps among the survivors who in many cases were producing impressive work that they had never even known that they were capable of.

    The best classes are life-changing experiences.

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