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« Books for kids | Main | Anthologize me »

June 21, 2005



I stay numeric up to the final grade. After each exam I give the mean, sd, median and if the distribution is bimodal (as it often is) the peaks. And I offer interpretation: if your score is in this range you're doing well; if it's in this range you're on track to pass; if it's in this range you need to come talk about how to change your approach to the class.

But I don''t think it does any good.


I'm not entirely sure it's the least important element of the feedback. The problem with letter grades (or number grades -- I'm distinguishing them from evaluative comments) is that they mean different things to different people. When 43% of this year's graduates from my division brandish GPAs above 3.5 (23% above 3.7, 4% above 3.9), I like my students to know that their "B," in my book, means that their work is above average, not below it. There's always an element of comparison in grades: "superior" means superior to something -- and whether that something is, specificially, other students in the class, or expectations based on previous students the professor has encountered, the comparison still means something.

I suppose there are some students who, knowing that a "B" means "good work," will still feel that "good"="A" -- but for many, it's just important to know that, in fact, they're not performing abysmally, however their professor chooses to describe what they've done.

Adjunct Kait

On the first exam I may do that kind of breakdown, but not too often after that. Usually I say, "the class average was , if you got or better, good job!" Also, I may give some rough number of how many As or Fs were given, or I may mention the mode letter grade. Depends on the assignment and my mood...

Brian Manhire

A new article about grade inflation ("Grade Inflation in Engineering Education at Ohio University") is now posted at:

If you know of others interested in this subject, please forward this message to them....Thanks, BM

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