Friday, June 02, 2006

As promised

The reason why students at this university are more likely to freak out when they get their end-of-semester transcripts is the completely fucked up system of letter grades this university has.

Most classes during the year give numerical marks (out of 100%) and don't always translate these to letter grades until the final mark is calculated. So for some first-years, the first time they see a letter grade from this university is on their end-of-semester transcript. And then they get a grade according to the following system:

80--100% = HD
70--79% = D
60--69% = C
50--59% = P
0--50% = F

Can you imagine what a poor student who gets in the 70--79% range feels like when they see their letter grade? I know students who have been devastated, thinking they failed a course when actually they did rather well. (And as for including a transcript from this university in an application for entrance to a programme elsewhere, you can imagine the hassles that creates.)

So I try to remember to give classes a little talk about what the grades here stand for. (HD is for "high distinction", D is for "distinction", C is for "credit" and P and F are "pass" and "fail".) It does say this somewhere on the university website, and in the booklet students get given upon admission, but half of them don't read these things.

So in a bid to reduce the risk of heart failure among first year students, I propose that this university change its cruddy grades system to something that will stop freaking my poor students out.


Lucy said...

Aren't they listed on the syllabus with the numerical ranges, though?

StyleyGeek said...

Yup. But when did my students ever read the syllabus?

This would be the same syllabus that lists the due dates for assignments (Student: "But I didn't know we had an assignment!"), how much each is worth, ("If I missed doing the assignment, does that mean I fail the course?") and the attendance policy ("Are tutorials compulsory?").

grace said...

I find it hard to imagine what was so wrong with A,B,C,D, and E! Most people get the gist of what *they* mean.

Lucy said...

I guess I'm used to people obsessively reading the cut-offs to calculate how many points they need to either pass, or do well. My uni gave grades 1-7, so at least it didn't look like any other possible marking scheme.

StyleyGeek said...

That's interesting, Lucy. That's the grading system used in Germany, so all my grades from there were on the 1--7 scale too. This university had trouble deciphering that.

I also read the marking scheme obsessively, but my students definitely don't. I've had so many come to see me to ask how much they need in the exam to pass, even though all the information to work it out is available to them (their grades for the assignments, the assignment weightings).

mila said...

yeah I just about had a heart attack - I think Macquarie Uni used it for one of the prerequisite actuarial papers (and I obtained the appropriate, inappropriate, grade)

StyleyGeek said...

So you were one of those students who doesn't read the syllabus, then? :)

Badaunt said...

When I did my Masters at Macquarie they switched after I did my first paper, for which I got an A. For my next one I got an HD, which was baffling, so I looked it up. It would have been nasty to get a D at that point.

(And yes, I HAD read the marking scheme, carefully, but I'd read the OLD one. The new one had been sent but I hadn't quite got around to reading that particular bunch of papers yet and didn't know they'd changed. You don't expect them to change something so basic suddenly like that.)

StyleyGeek said...

Wow, I thought this university had an isolated problem here, but it seems to be more widespread than I realised.

And why on earth did they think it was a good idea to change TO this system???