Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Land of the Lost
Re: Student takes university to court over grade.
Originally Posted by registerthis
I understand the point you are making, Yachtzee, but a "straight grade", as it were, can become problematic if the course is taught by a particularly poor instructor. I remember I had an advanced economics class "taught" by a Chinese professor who was, perhaps, the worst professor I've ever had. I wasn't an econ major, but I knew my way around basic micro and macro theory. And from day one the man might as well have been teaching Sanskrit while talking in Mandarin. Not only was he extremely difficult to understand, but his teaching style was not at all geared towards a classroom setting, particularly of students who were not econ majors. He consistently used theories that he expressly stated were beyond the scope of the class bu that we might find "helpful." This, in actuality, only served to confuse us.
The first few weeks, I made arrangements to meet directly with the TA--himself a foreign-born individual who had a less-than-wonderful grasp of the English language--to attempt to get caught up on the material I was missing. However, the TA proved unhelpful when even he admitted to being unable to adequately follow along with the professor's lectures. At this point, I filed a complaint with the necessary department, and copied the dean of the college. I received only a form response that my complaint had been received, and that the school would follow up if they felt it was warranted.
Ultimately, nothing became of the investigation. At the end of the term, the class average in the course was a 37%. Now, perhaps I could have pressed the issue further, or sought other avenues for tutoring in this class--but the fact of the matter is that my class schedule was already overburdened, and I simply didn't have the time to devote to re-learning the material from another source, particularly for a class that was not in my major and was only fulfilling a general ed requirement.
In cases like this, I think a curve has legitimate value, because it compensates for a sub-par teaching and learning experience provided by the University. Admittedly, there were times when I benefitted from a curve in a class where it likely wasn't necessary. So there are times when I would agree with you. But I also had experiences whereby grading on a curve was, in my opinion, a necessary adjustment. So I can see both sides.
While I agree with you to a certain degree, I think the use of a curve to rectify issues caused by sub-par instruction should be the exception rather than the rule. I think that too often the curve is used to hide inadequacies in the education system. If a teacher hands out grades in a bell-curve distribution, you can't tell that there was anything wrong with the class based on student performance. With straight grading, if too many people are getting an A, you might question whether the current lesson plan doesn't sufficiently challenge the students. If there are too many low grades, you might argue that the material is too hard or that the teacher did a poor job. In either case, the fact that the grade distribution looks odd gives the administration reason to investigate further.
I say that, rather than taking the lazy route and curving everyone to get that bell-shaped distribution, teachers, administrators, and schools should work to improve the lesson plans to come to that distribution naturally. If students aren't allowed to cheat, why should schools be allowed to do so?
Burn down the disco. Hang the blessed DJ. Because the music that he constantly plays, it says nothing to me about my life.