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Friday, July 16, 2010

Grades are assessment

Every member of the faculty does assessment. We give tests; we give assignments; we give grades for those tests and assignments. (That's why our students love us so!) This is all part of an assessment process. I say 'part' because there must be more. The grades are a measure, but that measure must be reacted to in some way. The student might look at a 55% on an exam and resolve not to study during "The Office." An instructor might look at a 55.5% average for his class and decide to revisit his teaching techniques.

This makes in confusing when faculty is discouraged from using grades in various assessment reports. While there might be a number of reasons for this, one I see comes from the difficulty of using grades from a class to make comparisons to a national standard. This is to say that while my students all get As that might just be because I am easy and not because I am good, or my students all get Ds just because I have standards and not because I think I am Napoleon.

Grades are a good tool for what we use them for which is measuring the achievement of a particular student learning a particular set of material. Expanding their usefulness beyond that scope is not impossible but would require some sort of a justification, and it usually easier simply to use some other measure.

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