SA pushing for uniform grading
Faculties face different grading system
by BAJ Visser
Ever been surprised when an 85 per cent in one course didn’t net the same letter grade as in another course?
Wondering why your general education courses seem to have their own grading schemes?
These head-scratchers have bothered Students’ Association of Mount Royal University’s VP academic Jennifer Langille since she started digging out old course outlines.
“I always hated having to go through every outline for every class just to figure out where my mark is,” Langille said, “and I know I’m not the only one dealing with this frustration.”
That’s why Langille said she is moving towards standardizing grading rubrics across Mount Royal’s various faculties and departments, implementing an “institution-wide grading scheme, which includes GPA, percentage and letter grades.”
According to Langille, the confusing mix of rubrics can impact students’ access to awards, loans, scholarships and graduate school.
“If we’re essentially getting a 4.0 in one class and a 3.5 in another, for exactly the same percentage mark, it just doesn’t add up for a lot of students,” Langille said. “In some cases it’s different for every professor within one faculty.
“It becomes impossible for students to keep all their grades straight.”
Langille made standardized grading rubrics a central plank in her election platform, and said being elected gives her a clear endorsement to move ahead with her plan.
“I’ve been working on this since the day I was elected,” Langille said. She contacted schools across Canada to see how some of the top universities in the nation — as ranked by Maclean’s Magazine’s university rankings — handled standardized grades.
Of the top 20 institutions in Canada, Langille found that only the University of Calgary does not have across-the-board standardization, though they are moving towards that for the 2012-2013 school year.
“McGill, Ottawa, Acadia, Ryerson, Laval — these are big names, and they are all standardized,” Langille said.
“It’s logical, and it speaks to the institution’s credibility,” she said. “How can an institution be credible if each professor has their own grading system?”
However, this is exactly how it would continue to work even if a standardized rubric were to be implemented, said Marc Chikinda, Dean of the centre of communications studies at Mount Royal.
“The key thing to remember is, regardless of rubrics, it will always be an instructor who decides what an A is,” Chikinda said. “What we can never change, and should never change, is the professor’s adjudication of a student’s work.”
Chikinda said the communication faculty’s own grading scheme was one was agreed upon by representatives from all of the faculty’s majors, as well as student representatives.
“This rubric has worked for us for years now, and I don’t really see the need for us to change things,” Chikinda said.
Most of the communication faculty’s scholarships are awarded internally, Chikinda added, meaning that a standardized grade would have little financial impact on communication students.
“Moreover, there is a perception in some places that communication students have it easier than other students, and that’s not at all the situation,” he said. “One just has to look at the rubric to see that we really do expect a lot out of our students.”
“I’m open to arguments,” Chikinda said of Langille’s proposal, “but I haven’t heard anything to convince me yet.”
Langille hopes to have her recommendations passed through the General Faculties Council this academic year.