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Q: grading ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   2 Comments )
Subject: grading
Category: Reference, Education and News > Education
Asked by: ramjet51-ga
List Price: $50.00
Posted: 07 Mar 2005 00:18 PST
Expires: 06 Apr 2005 01:18 PDT
Question ID: 486013
Why and how do we differnciate in grading student's work at the university level?

Request for Question Clarification by pinkfreud-ga on 10 Mar 2005 17:57 PST
I don't understand the question. Can you rephrase it? The more we know
about your exact needs, the better.

Clarification of Question by ramjet51-ga on 10 Mar 2005 18:24 PST
We might consider the following:  Why do we need to differentiate
among students?  Why don't we give a "good" class all A's and B's? 
Why is it reasonable and necessary to identify different results among
and between students?  What does the ability (or inability) to grade
tell us about the validity of our teaching?  We need to write a brief
rationale as to why we show that there are differences in achievement
within a group of students.  What does that tell us about the teacher
as well as the student?

Subject: Re: grading
Answered By: tox-ga on 20 Mar 2005 14:51 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars

Thank you for an interesting question.  I discussed this with several
friends that are professors at different universities, and prepared
the following answer for you:

At the university level, there is a very good reason why we need to
grade students.  Since the university experience is usually very
impersonal, with a high student to professor ratio, marks are really
the only way employers, graduate and professional schools can evaluate
prospective candidates.   There is not enough teacher-student
interaction for professors to make individual comments on each student
so we rely on marks to make distinctions. There are not enough
positions for scholarships, competitive jobs, and graduate schools to
admit everyone, and there must be a way to distinguish between good
and bad candidates.

Also, it is important to note that the marks are usually relative.  If
the average for an exam was abnormally low, the professor will usually
adjust the marks to fit a normal distribution (?bell curve?).  So for
example, if the average for an exam was say 25%, a person who scored a
50% might still finish the course with an A, because he or she was one
of the top in the class (even though he or she could not answer half
the exam questions).  Likewise, if the average for an exam was very
high (say 80%), the professor would reduce everyone?s marks to fit the
normal distribution.

Additionally, many universities have policies whereby a professor
cannot give more than a certain percentage (say 20%) of the class an
A, without having to write a letter to the dean explaining why he or
she awarded so many A?s.  Thus, in universities with this policy, you
will never see a class with all A?s even if everyone in the class was
brilliant because professors don?t want to deal with the
administrative hassle.  There is a good reason for this policy.  If
everyone attending a certain institution received an A or B, the value
of that degree would be greatly diminished.  The opposite is also
true, if everyone failed at a certain institution, the value of that
degree would also be decreased.  Thus, there must be a policy (written
or unwritten) whereby only a certain percentage of students receive
A?s, B?s, C?s, etc.

With regards to professors, you need to understand that the primary
role of professors is to do research and publish papers, not to teach.
 Teaching is only a small aspect of their job, and senior and tenured
professors would not be penalized at all for poor teaching reviews. 
For many professors, teaching is a burden, since it takes away from
research time, and often they are teaching material they find
uninteresting or too simple.  This is not to say that all professors
are terrible teachers. Everyone once in a while, you will encounter a
great enthusiastic professor, but this is usually at higher levels of
study (4th year or graduate school) where the course subject is
interesting to the professor and intimately related to his or her

The entire idea behind university study is self-learning.  Sure, there
are people to help you if you need it, but the student must seek the
help him or herself (as opposed to the teacher calling home to notify
the parents of a mad test in high school).  Poor performance in
courses reflects on the student, not the professor, at least from an
administrative point of view.  There are cases where the performance
of the class is so poor compared to previous years that something must
be done.  In this case, often the marks are just readjusted, and the
professor will usually not be penalized.

Universities design their administration to cater after the best
students, which has always been the case.  The top students are given
great rewards; scholarships, internships, summer jobs with top
researchers, etc.  It is these brilliant students that will carry on
the reputation of the institution, so it important to distinguish them
from the crowd and nurture them at an early age into being great
scholars.  To do this, professors often purposely design tough exams
where only 1 or 2 will do well so isolate the few brilliant
individuals in every class.

I hope this helps.  Please feel free to ask for clarification on any
part of the answer.


ramjet51-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
I was quite satisfied with the answer and it allowed me to not spend
alot of time addressing this problem with my faculty.  Thanks

Subject: Re: grading
From: jaynick-ga on 10 Mar 2005 10:13 PST
Can you be more specific?  This will help a researcher answer your question.
Subject: Re: grading
From: ramjet51-ga on 10 Mar 2005 17:53 PST
We might consider the following:  Why do we need to differentiate
among students?  Why don't we give a "good" class all A's and B's? 
Why is it reasonable and necessary to identify different results among
and between students?  What does the ability (or inability) to grade
tell us about the validity of our teaching?


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