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« Ups and Downs | Main | Literary Life »

April 30, 2004


Michael Tinkler

Come to think of it, why does grade inflation "allo[w]" faculty to single out the best students for additional attention? Please tell me it isn't because the teacher has reduced the amount of time s/he spends grading. Please?
Sorry to break it to you, but that's the only way I managed to understand it. I suppose grading would be a lot faster if one compressed the scale and only troubled oneself about dividing A from A- students?


Well, that should make grading this last set of term papers really easy! *rolls eyes*

(My students wish, eh?)

Jonathan Dresner

I have toyed with reducing the number of levels of grades, and found it usually quite liberating, particularly for shorter, simpler projects.

But it's not inflation: what I do is eliminate plus/minus grades (or sometimes just minus grades, if I'm using a 4-point scale).

I was inspired to do this by two things. First was the amount of time I spent debating grades with myself, compared to the amount of time students spend considering their grades. Second was a discussion of student course evaluations, in which a psychology prof revealed that people can't really understand a scale of more than about seven steps: beyond that and the difference between steps becomes increasingly arbitrary.

Part of the grade inflation debate is over meaning: too finely divided a scale doesn't work.


I am currently taking the class Professor Coplin's mentions in the article. Shoddy reasoning abounds.

Anyway, I recently discussed one of my papers with the Professor. He demanded that my paper use statistics (how delightfully ironic considering his article!). I pointed out that no statistics were available.

"Just bullshit some," he said. "Everyone does it. Just make sure it's good bullshit."

Tells you something, doesn't it?

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