Thursday, March 22, 2018

A new explanation for grade inflation

The Economist magazine reports here on a study by Kieran O’Connor and Amar Cheema of the University of Virginia which suggests a reason why many exams will show a tendency towards grade inflation.

Their research found evidence that judges and examiners tend to become more lenient with experience.

The study looked at the grades awarded in 1,358 university courses that had been offered by the same lecturer for at least three semesters.

They also looked at the marks awarded by the three permanent judges during twenty seasons of "Dancing with the Stars" which I understand to be a US equivalent of "Strictly Come Dancing."

In both cases they found a propensity for grades and marks awarded to rise over time which persisted when they checked for various possible effects which might explain a genuine improvement.

In effect you get a better grade if you are judged later in the process.

The next stage of their analysis will be to establish whether this effect persists when judges and examiners are warned about it and on their guard against it.

One lesson one can definitely learn from this is that anyone setting up an examination system or anything else which judges how well people do needs to make the marking criteria as objective as possible.

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