I read with great interest appendix O from the Undergraduate Studies Committee on Grade Distributions.
After noticing that grade distributions tended to play an uneven role in faculty promotions across various campuses and colleges, I began to study the issue more closely. I’m hopeful that our Senate might take some time to further discuss and emphasize the following lines in the report:
“With respect to the role of grades in performance reviews, it is important to note that authors such as Millet (2016) caution against solely using grades as a metric to evaluate faculty members as this may have unintended consequences; for example, instructors may, in an attempt to improve their grading reliability scores, use GPAs to assign grades in a course.”
If instructors take seriously the guidance given to them by senate documents and significant administrators, they would find themselves facing what Gregory Bateson termed a psychological “double bind” (1956). They receive two contradictory messages from authority figures and find themselves unable to accommodate both without extreme measures. As Bateson, supported by R.D. Laing, explained, these impossible to reconcile standards produce environments that make it extremely difficult for those entrapped in them to maintain mental health and productivity.
I have begun working on an essay to analyze the impact of efforts to externally influence individual instructors’ grade distributions. It is very much a work in progress that I would prefer to further vet before sharing. It seems, however, that the issues are set to be discussed this month, so I’ll (with hesitation, given that I wish it were stronger!) present it now: http://sites.psu.edu/rclmiles/2016/09/13/editorial-grade-deflation-a-different-problem-not-the-solution/
In short, we really need to come up with some better solutions to the problem of grade inflation than expecting administrators to press their faculty into giving lower grades.
Senator Mary Miles