Originally Posted by registerthis
I agree with most of what you wrote, but I don't agree with penalizing students with a bad grade if the bad grade is truly not of their own making. It shouldn't be an odd grade distribution that causes alarm, it should be the size of the curve that does. The same effect is produced, but the students do not pay with a bad grade on their transcripts due to the unfortunate circumstance of taking a course with a professor with poor teaching methods.
I completely agree that curves should not be used to hide inadequacies in the education system. In my own example, you would have thought that a course whereby a group of seemingly intelligent students somehow managed to pull a 37% in a mid-level economics course would have set off red flags throughout the department. However, a friend of mine had the same professor for the class the following year, with no apparent change in curriculum or teaching style. I personally found it deplorable.
That's why I think that, in situations where there is a poor grade distribution, the University Ombudsman or someone similar should be called in to investigate to determine what caused the poor grades. If it looks like there was a problem with the lesson plan or quality of instruction, implement a curve to rectify it for that class so that they aren't penalized for having the bad luck of taking the class at the wrong time. While the investigation is going on, give the students in that class an "In Progress" to avoid causing transcript problems should someone be in the process of transferring or applying for a job with a grade requirement. Curves should be used sparingly, as an exception to rectify inequities within a single class for reasons beyond the control of the students.