Achen&Courant

Achen&Courant - Achen and Courant, "What...

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Unformatted text preview: Achen and Courant, "What Are Grades Made Of?” "Grades are an element of an intra-university economy that determines, among other things, enrollments and the sizes of departments." (p. 78) BUT: "both the costs and consequences of different grading policies vary systematically across departments and courses.” (p. 78) Different costs: "objective" tests harder to argue with ("cheaper” to use), so grades will be tougher in fields where "objective" tests are more feasible. Grades likely to be higher... - for elective courses (higher elasticity of student demand vs. required courses) - in upper-division courses (more self-selection, faculty want to help their majors) ° in departments with low enrollments (want/need to attract students) - when there are student course evaluations (faculty want to increase their ratings, then other faculty want/have to follow suit ,— hence, grade inflation?) e.g., consider economics: second- or third-toughest grader in seven departments, over time and at different universities ° relatively easy to write "objective" economics exams ° econ. is required by many other disciplines (e.g., business) ° high enrollments in econ. create the need to cut down enrollment Different types of required courses: °Some courses are required for popular fields (e.g., econ required for business) — here demand may be relatively insensitive, so grades may be lower °Some courses required only for “distribution” requirements (e.g., foreign language, lab science, etc.) — here demand may be more sensitive, so grades may be higher FrenchI Spanish: commonly taught in high schools, so they function like a conventional required course, and so lower-level course grades are low — but upper-level grades are higher (demand is more grade-elastic) Chinese, JapaneseI Russian, Italian: average grades are higher (again, demand is more grade-elastic) Role of “objective” tests and grading methods: °When it’s hard to grade “objectively,” cost to instructors of giving low grades is high, so average grade level will be high: e.g., physics'lab courses have higher grades than physics lecture courses or (even!) English courses °Likewise, Freshman Comp — which everyone ‘is required to take — gives an average grade of 3+ "even though the grade-elasticity of demand is surely very low" Possible story about sources of grade inflation: °Student course evaluations spur professors to give higher grades (low-cost way to win teaching awards, be popular, avoid conflict with students, etc.) °Other faculty then feel the pressure to adopt the same practices °Faculty at other institutions then have to follow suit to “protect” their students (e.g.,_ if incoming graduate students from elsewhere have higher grades but no greater skill or ability, you will give higher grades to your students — see p. 91) ...
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Achen&Courant - Achen and Courant, "What...

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