Embrace grading distribution

Requiring instructors’ expectations, course guidelines, objectives and grading policies to be clear from the beginning of the semester has its drawbacks. Students might decide to quit learning and making an effort during the final topics for a particular course once they are sure they can pass it. 
 
 
This is detrimental to the educational integrity of the student and the educational institution, as students will pass courses without knowing anything about particular subjects they are supposed to master. 
 
 
In contrast, the current letter-grade system, in effect, motivates (and hopefully does not force) students to learn everything.
 
 
Grading exists to provide feedback on students’ grasp of educational materials. Thus, students need to regard it as such a tool. Timely and clear feedback helps students to improve on their weaknesses and to know what are the particular concepts and principles they need to work on more. Grades do not exist to determine how much less to study, when to stop allocating time for a particular course or whether to go to discussion classes. 
 
 
Grades and scores are not the end, but the beginning of education. As such, it is not reasonable to expect the instructor to constantly update students on their standing. The instructor should instead focus on giving clear and timely feedback.
 
 
The asymmetric attention to grades and standing among students not only corrupts students’ mental health, educational integrity and learning, but could also force educational institutions to focus more on statistics such as graduation rates and similar metrics rather than maintaining a satisfactory quality of education. Ultimately, this could result in the deterioration of the institution’s educational quality and fame. 
 
 
It is my personal belief that while different grading systems may have relative advantages with respect to each other, adopting one grading system over another will not affect the mental health and educational integrity of a student as long as the dominant culture in that institution is to place grades and scores in their rightful place — they are meant to provide feedback and evaluation for the ultimate purpose of successfully conveying basic knowledge to students in reasonable breadth and depth. 
 
 
I think it is by embracing the fact that we can maintain and expand our happiness.
 
 
Abbas Sohrabpour
University research assistant
 
The first half of this letter appeared in Wednesday’s paper.