Grade Inflation

Changes in Grading Policy

  • Departmental differences
    • Student Gamesmanship: choose courses with higher grades (e.g., to inflate GPA to meet Education requirements)
    • Some departments may attract better students
  • Grading Practices
    • norm- vs criterion-referenced grading
      Norm-referencing increasingly in decline, but hard sciences often remain last bastion of traditional assessment attitudes
    • Peer and self-evaluation: Many authors identify peer and self-evaluation with declining standards, though my own experience suggests that many (particularly female) students are harder on themselves than the instructors
    • group work can allow weak students to inflate their grades on coat-tails of group (anecdote).
    • Plagiarism Internet increases concerns that less able students cheating their way to undeserved grades.
  • Higher grades used to encourage learning
    highest inflation among marginal students to encourage learning
  • Faculty grading criteria
    Aside from Faculty of Education, most university faculty have no formal training in assessment and consequently, the validity and reliability of their grading practices must be suspect
  • Faculty behaviour
    • have to respond to high grades in colleague's sections
    • easier to give high than low grade (do not have to justify high grades)
    • new faculty worked with inflated grades in their careers
    • blurring of faculty-student relationship erodes objectivity
    • faculty may be better trained in evaluation technique and so moving away from talent hunt models (i.e., away from norm-referencing and away from belief that high failure rate = high standards, rather than weak teaching)

© Robert Runté 2005. This site last updated: May 3, 2005