Thursday, December 31, 2009


I got this e-mail in my college in-box the other day, "PLEASE FIGURE OUT OUR GRADES." There was no text body attached, although the message was signed. I submitted semester grades today. I do all grading myself (no TAs), and I don't use a computer calclulator to assign the semester total (since I add lots of additional subjective measures to the final letter grade). Still, it's a rapid-fire culture we're in, and students want their grades, and they want them now!

Perhaps I'll adopt Daniel Solove's "staircase method" of grading next semester. See, "A Guide to Grading Exams":

The key to this method is a good toss. Without a good toss, it is difficult to get a good spread for the grading curve. It is also important to get the toss correct on the first try. Exams can get crumpled if tossed too much. They begin to look as though the professor actually read them, and this is definitely to be avoided. Additional tosses are also inefficient and expend needless time and energy. Note the toss in Figure 3 below. This is an example of a toss of considerable skill — obviously the result of years of practice.

Note in Figure 3 above that the exams are evenly spread out, enabling application of the curve. Here, however, is where the experts diverge. Some contend that the curve ought to be applied as in Figure 4 below, with the exams at the bottom of the staircase to receive a lower grade than the ones higher up on the staircase.

RTWT at the link.

Hat Tip:
Glenn Reynolds.


The Griper said...

i never liked teachers using the curve anyways. it has kids competing with each other for a grade rather than themselves.

Donald Douglas said...

Happy New Year's, Griper!