How can we stop grade inflation? Just stop inflating grades! I frequently return to a 2008 quote by Mary Biggs, which appeared in Grade Inflation: Academic Standards in Higher Education. She wrote that “the cause of grade inflation is the faculty. We give inflated grades.” Here we are in 2012. We still discuss the grade inflation problem, but we are also still giving the same explanation: faculty inflate grades. To better understand what inflating grades does and does not do, check out a June 25, 2012 Chronicle article on the topic: http://chronicle.com/article/To-Stop-Grade-Inflation-Just/132415/.
Posts Tagged ‘grade inflation’
In the 2008 book edited by Lester Hunt, Grade Inflation: Academic Standards in Higher Education, Mary Biggs wrote that the “the cause of grade inflation is the faculty. We give inflated grades” (p. 112). But, you might ask, why do faculty give inflated grades? Peter Eubanks’ article in the August 9, 2011 issue of Inside Higher Ed offered three sources of pressure to give inflated grades. Pressure from students: students’ complaints about grades prompt “a nagging fear that minor grading errors have indeed been made and that the student should be given the benefit of the doubt.” Pressure from administrators: when faculty are expected “to produce good evaluations, [they can] feel a temptation to inflate grades to secure their own livelihoods.” Pressure from colleagues: faculty could believe that “if everyone else is giving out inflated grades, why should they be the ones to stand alone, only to incur the displeasure of students who may be confused by inconsistent standards.” Finally, pressure to inflate grades comes from the faculty themselves: “efforts in the classroom have sometimes been inadequate, that poor student performance reflects poor preparation or teaching . . . , and that grades must be inflated to compensate for . . . failings.” Which pressure do you feel most? Eubanks’ full article can be accessed here: http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2011/08/09/essay_on_why_faculty_members_participate_in_grade_inflation.
Question: Grade inflation seems to be a hot topic these days. Does it exist at Emerson and what can I do about it?
CITL’s Answer: There is a lot of controversy across the country about grade inflation. There are, however, no simple answers about its existence or what to do about it. Nevertheless, a commonly understood definition for grade inflation is the first step in answering questions. A University of Wyoming’s Webpage, called Grade Inflation: The Current Conversation, has this definition: “ . . . an increase in grades without a corresponding increase in the quality of student work.” For more information, visit that Website.
Once a definition is agreed upon, grades and student learning could be compared over an extended period of time to determine the degree of inflation on campus. Regarding what you can do about it, ask yourself if the grades your students earn are true measures of their learning. Then, to explore and address any grading concerns, sign up for the CITL’s Spring Semester workshop series: Effective Grading for Student Learning. Watch for announcements or contact CITL@emerson.edu.