Teaching as an adjunct can be a lot of fun. It is also challenging. As I have encountered a number of situations, I realize such a blog can be helpful, both to me and to others.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Bell Curve

With the feedback I am getting from students about grades, I began to think about the bell curve. Now, I do not use that curve. I believe each student should be graded on his or her merits. Just because someone in my class got an ‘A’, it does not mean someone should get an ‘F’. Likewise, just because someone fails my class, let’s say due to poor attendance, it does not mean someone should get an ‘A’.

I know there are teachers who use it and certainly, it is one way to make sure you are not giving out too many A’s. There are other teachers who do not use it but check and somehow end up with a grade distribution that looks similar to using the bell curve. I do believe that the majority of teachers today do not use the bell curve.

My father, when he taught, had an interesting take on the bell curve. He argued that a bell curve is supposed to be reflective of society as a whole and since you are dealing with those people who made it into college, you are starting with a more educated sample of the population. As a result, he argued, it is unfair to want your grades to be grouped in a bell curve.

Personally, I guess I do use a bell curve but it is more in the A through C range. Translation, I usually give out a lot of B’s and try to keep the A’s and C’s limited. I do fail students but they really have to work at it. If they do not put the time in or if they skip a lot of classes, they will not pass.

I debate back and forth on this. Perhaps I should change my approach but honestly, I probably am not going to.