Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Students Expect Good Grades Just For Showing Up

New York Times:  Student Expectations Seen as Causing Grade Disputes, by Max Roosevelt:

A recent study by researchers at the University of California, Irvine, found that a third of students surveyed said that they expected B’s just for attending lectures, and 40 percent said they deserved a B for completing the required reading.

“I noticed an increased sense of entitlement in my students and wanted to discover what was causing it” said Ellen Greenberger, the lead author of the study, called Self-Entitled College Students: Contributions of Personality, Parenting, and Motivational Factors, which appeared last year in The Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

Professor Greenberger said that the sense of entitlement could be related to increased parental pressure, competition among peers and family members and a heightened sense of achievement anxiety.

Aaron M. Brower, the vice provost for teaching and learning at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, offered another theory. “I think that it stems from their K-12 experiences,” Professor Brower said. “They have become ultra-efficient in test preparation. And this hyper-efficiency has led them to look for a magic formula to get high scores.”

James Hogge, associate dean of the Peabody School of Education at Vanderbilt University, said: “Students often confuse the level of effort with the quality of work. There is a mentality in students that ‘if I work hard, I deserve a high grade.’ “ In line with Dean Hogge’s observation are Professor Greenberger’s test results. Nearly two-thirds of the students surveyed said that if they explained to a professor that they were trying hard, that should be taken into account in their grade.
(Hat Tip: Michael Mulroney.)

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In Robert Pirsig’s, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, he writes that in a true university, grades are not necessary. Ever since I read that line, I have pondered the following questions “Are grades are necessary?” and “What do grades reflect?” Over the years, this process of questioning has led me to some interesting insights. First, grades are used primarily as a tool by employers who are seeking to minimize their training costs by hiring “the best and the brightest.” Second, grades are used by educational institutions to distinguish high achievers from low achievers, and more recently, to manipulate statistics. Finally, grades are used by students as a source of pride and accomplishment, often ignoring the fact that the student “shopped around” for the class or professor, thereby giving the student a false sense of pride.

As a society, we have come to accept the fact that an “A” student is superior to a “B” student, who in turn is superior to a “C” student, and so on. The true evil of grading is that it is subjective, inconsistent and unpredictable. Even so called objective exams are not objective because the questions can be selected from a certain portion of the course or asked in a manner in which a few students openly understand. If I could, I would ban grading completely and opt for a system where interest levels and ability speak for themselves.

Posted by: Art Acevedo | Feb 19, 2009 7:54:05 AM

Does that mean we can start keeping score in little league again?

Posted by: guy in the veal calf office | Feb 18, 2009 5:29:36 PM