September 26, 2006
Website Publishes Professors' Past Grades
From the Chronicle of Higher Education: Pick-A-Prof, one of the numerous websites providing student reviews of professors, publishes the grading histories/practices of professors for many of the 170 schools it covers. Obviously, many schools do not provide this data willingly, but Pick-A-Prof's believes such data is a public record, thus forcing some public institutions to fork it over. Sometimes, lawyers are needed as attitude-adjusters. See the story about its lawsuit against UC Davis, which just last month concluded favorably for Pick-A-Prof when UC Davis relented.
Should we simply put this in the "more-information-is-better" category? Unquestionably, this information is highly relevant and interesting to students picking among courses. Further, it's existed in some limited fashion forever--certain professors get a reputation for being easy or hard graders, and these impressionistic reputations will be replaced by hard data.
However, will students use past grading data wisely to improve their decision-making? There are plenty of reasons to believe they will not. Instead, there remains significant concern that students will flock to the easy-grading professors, regardless of pedagogical merit, while tougher professors either will have their enrollments suffer or, worse, will change/lighten up their grading standards as a marketing ploy to prop up course enrollments or to win popularity contests.
To be clear, I've routinely published my own grading data (for example, see the 11 years worth of exam writeups for my Cyberlaw course), so I'm not philosophically opposed to the public availability of this data. However, to the extent that democratized grading information contributes to students viewing a course simply as an economic transaction to acquire a grade, I think we all suffer.
Posted by Eric at September 26, 2006 12:13 PM | Legal Education Industry
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I agree with both of the points you made here. The grading reputations of professors have always been passed around on campuses everywhere, so the fact that there's now "hard data" for students to refer to isn't exactly groundbreaking stuff.
However, you're also right that students will overwhelmingly choose profs that are known as easy graders, which might cause strict professors to react by loosening up their own requirements. I think that could deifinitely lead to a less-than-desirable situation where the course content itself takes a back seat to the kind of grade the student could reasonably expect to obtain.
Posted by: TheBizofKnowledge at September 26, 2006 04:09 PM