Arguably a factor in grade inflation, the nationwide up-spike in students’ academic performance can be related to relationships between students and their graders (graduate student instructors and professors). This is not to imply the remotest degree of inappropriate behavior occurring between students and faculty; in fact, it is quite the opposite.
Relationships between students and faculty are essential to the learning process. The mentorship a professor or GSI can offer is priceless in undergraduate studies. However, these same relationships that are so critical to learning and intellectual development are contributing factors to the escalating grades of University students.
Professors and GSIs will likely balk at the suggestion that their mentoring of students – facilitated likely through visits to office hours – aid in grade inflation. Repeated visits to office hours or frequent discussion of course-related materials over electronic mail can precipitate some kind of adjustment in one’s academic record. This certainly does not imply illegal modification of one’s grades, but rather, students held in high favor with some faculty whose classes they are enrolled in may reap the benefit of their devout attendance to office hours when the final grades are tabulated.
I was warned before attending the University that “You’ll only be a number there,” in reference to the large student body here at the University. Wait, so of 24,000 undergraduates, I would simply be a number to my professors?
This size of the student body is not the problem. Being relegated to “just a number,” is central to assigning proper grades to students for their work. If my professors believe my in-class demeanor is studious, attentive and intelligent, that conduct should not under any circumstance affect or alter the grade I receive (except for the “participation grade”). The amount of work I as a student dedicate to my studies, evidenced by my in-class participation or attendance at office hours, should be absolutely independent of the grades I receive.
Inherently, it would appear as though I am pointing fingers, suggesting that professors or GSIs on campus are guilty of grade inflation or susceptible to manipulation by students based on their academic relationship with the faculty. One would be incorrect in this assumption.
What I seek to elucidate is that the possibility for grade inflation’s existence is a partial result of student interaction with graders. Office hours are vital; interaction with professors and graduate students is important to the education system, if not central. However, the possibility that faculty’s disposition toward students can profoundly inflate or deflate student grades is disheartening.
To many students and parents, grades are important and the accuracy of these grades represent a student’s success and knowledge – not a fudged half-grade improvement because Luke “really worked hard and came to office hours,” or the converse, “Luke never comes to class, so his essay clearly can’t be up to my standards.”
This issue pertains primarily to classes that do not have a multiple-choice exam element (many accounting, pre-business and science classes are excluded), but, rather, classes that incorporate student writing as a primary source of grading. Classes like these should reduce the students’ to numerical values for grading purposes.
Papers would be handed in simply with the eight-digit student number as the stamp of ownership. The graders of papers would need to cut out any contact from the student’s name and grade in order to successfully establish a system that reports true grades. Otherwise, the inflated grades that are being awarded are doing a tremendous disservice to the academic institution of higher learning we, as students and members of this community should seek to uphold.
After all, the grade is a result of the paper itself, not the student behind the paper, isn’t it?