Monthly Archives: March 2010

What’s in an A

Today in my software engineering class I gave the students their group project, on which they will be working for the rest of the semester. In doing so, I outlined the requirements and identified additional features that could be added but were not required.

Then, in discussing grading for the project, we went over the way that they would give scores to themselves and their teammates in various capacities. Each one will be a 5 point scale with 0 representing complete failure in an area and 4 representing meeting expectations. A score of 5 would indicated an area where they had gone above and beyond what was needed. For example, in teamwork, a 4 represents completing assigned tasks thoroughly and efficiently, but a 5 means the student took initiative in seeking out others tasks, making sure they were complete and generally exceeding expectations in leadership.

The question was asked, therefore, if completing “additional features” was necessary for an ‘A’ grade, or if fulfilling the base requirements was sufficient. It made me stop to reflect on what grades have become.

There should be a way to reward a student that consistently exceeds expectations. But a 110% ‘A’ doesn’t look any different than a 94% ‘A’ on their transcript. Perhaps the system was designed for ‘C’ to really be average, but my experience has been that expectations have changed across the board, and that an ‘A’ really means: base requirements fulfilled as needed.