Sunday, December 02, 2012

Preparing to Grade Finals

My students took their final exams this last week. I have about 250 finals to mark over the Christmas break. Most of them from my 200 level historiography class. Grading is my least favorite part of being a lecturer. In particular I find complaints from students that did well, but not excellent regarding grades to be tiresome. According to all the official guidelines of the university a B+ is a good grade, yet every semester I have numerous complaints from students that it is a very bad grade and that only an A is acceptable. I am sure students would be happy with a system where everybody got an A and grades became totally meaningless. But, giving everybody an A defeats the whole purpose of grading. When students think that a B+ is the equivalent  of an F then the inflation of grade expectations is way too high. An honest question if there is anybody else involved in education anywhere in the world reading this. Do you have this problem and if you do how do you deal with it? Oh why do I even bother asking questions? I know absolutely nobody except maybe Walt is ever going to comment.


Leo Tolstoy said...

I do have this problem, but not as much as you apparently do. I work out very specific critera for grades. When someone comes in to challenge a grade, I go over there exam, referring to my criteria throughout the analysis. Something like:

"You mention X, Y, and Z, and so that clearly makes this a passing exam. You include specific details of all three that go beyond a simple pass, and so that clearly places your grade about the C range. The inclusion of details a, b, c, go beyond what many other did, and so that moves the grade to the high B range. However, you did not include d, e, and f, which are necessary to push the grade up into the A range."

Then I hand them back the paper, and they are usually speechless. Once in a while, I find in this process that they did include something I missed earlier, and reassess the grade. However, if you get a lot of challenges, that would probably open the flood gates!

The Ancient said...

In case you haven't seen this --

(The footnotes provide a somewhat better account.)

J. Otto Pohl said...

Ancient, thanks but what ever the reason for grade inflation at U of G it is not due to affirmative action. We do not have it here.

The Ancient said...

No, no.

What I was suggesting is that you could offer two different grades -- a private grade reflecting what you thought the student genuinely deserved, and an official grade that reflected a more "lenient" (i.e., institutionally corrupt) approach to grading.

In a perfect world, students would always get the grades they deserve. But you never say anything about the attitude of the university or your department towards the practice of grading. (Or if you have, I missed it.)

For example, what happens to professors who flunk politically-connected students? Are there established guidelines for grading, etc.

In other words, *if* you're boxed in by the institution and the culture, as Mansfield was at Harvard, there's a modest way out.

J. Otto Pohl said...

I am sorry Ancient I wasn't sure what your thrust was from the limited nature of your post. We can pretty much grade anyway we want. The department encourages a pretty strict line. Our grading is done anonymously. I have a huge stack of exams identified only by number. I have no idea which test belongs to which student. I have never heard of a professor getting in trouble for failing a politically connected student. Like most developing countries the elite send their kids to universities in the US or Europe. If the student has substantial ties with powerful political figures he is not going to U of G. He is instead attending Harvard and being graded by Professor Mansfield.