Tuesday, December 27, 2011

What is a Fair Grade? Should Effort Count?

What's sauce for the goose, is sauce for the gander. -- Proverb
Instructors at even “top-rank” universities report that their students fuss and fume if they get anything less than an A on an assignment. They expect that just putting out the effort – or claiming to have done so – merits a B so that anything more should bring it up to an A. A professor’s insisting that there may be standards that should influence judgments of quality is dismissed as some kind of cranky, outmoded elitism.

The retorts are obvious. The easiest one is to ask students if they would want to go to a doctor who had “put in the effort” during his or her studies, but never really learned the material. The students see the point but somehow continue to believe that their work should be exempted from conclusions drawn from such examples.

So far as most students are concerned, grades are competitive prizes, to judge from their comparison and boasting about GPA’s. However, everyone’s entitled to the honor of a diploma. This is a benefit that must be fairly shared quite independently of its use as a marker of accomplishment

To examine these issues further, see Fair Share vs. Fair Play: 
Two Competing Conceptions of Justice

-- GKC (EGR)