Academic journal article Education Research International

Age-Related Grade Inflation Expectancies in a University Environment

Academic journal article Education Research International

Age-Related Grade Inflation Expectancies in a University Environment

Article excerpt

Recommended by Wayne Martino

Department of Social & Behavioral Sciences, School of Arts & Sciences, University of Houston-Victoria, 3007 N. Ben Wilson, Victoria, TX 77901, USA

Received 7 March 2012; Revised 9 September 2012; Accepted 16 September 2012

This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

1. Introduction and Review of the Relevant Literature

Grade inflation, the process of instructors assigning higher grades than is warranted, has been a perennial concern in academia. Particularly in the 1990s, faculty and academic administrators have made their voices heard regarding the issue to such an extent that even students are now beginning to voice concerns [ 1]. Due to these concerns, even some employers are now skeptical and wary of making employment decisions based solely on university grade point averages [ 2, 3].

Grade inflation has been reported as an acknowledged problem in higher education in the United States since the late 1960s [ 4- 7]. However, not all research has reported grade inflation or a tendency toward it. Kohn [ 8] reviewed transcripts from 3,000 institutions of higher education and concluded that grades actually declined between 1975 and 1995. The majority of grade inflation studies, though, continue to report its existence.

Landrum [ 9] conducted a study on student expectation of grades in which 278 students in five different courses were asked about their own academic performance in class using both grade categories (A, B, C, D, and F) and descriptive criteria for grades (such as A = distinguished, B = superior, C = average, D = below average, and F = failure) taken directly from the official Boise State University catalog. Descriptive criteria for grades in the Landrum study are found in the options following this sample item stem: my work in this class is best described as (a) a distinguished work, (b) a superior work, (c) an average work, (d) a below average work, and (e) a failure. Note that in this sample survey item the actual letter grades (A, B, C, D, and F) are not included as options, and only the descriptive criteria for each grade (e.g., average work) as stated in the Boise State University are listed as options. Landrum found that 72% of the students reporting average work when grade criteria were the only options for the survey item expected a whole letter grade lower than what they expected when the options for the survey item were letter grades only (A-F). After converting letter grades and the descriptive criteria for each grade to grade point average (GPA) numbers (A = 4.0, B = 3.0, C = 2.0, D = 1.0, and F = 0.0), Landrum found a statistically significant higher GPA for the average expected letter grade (3.03) than for the survey item that included only grade criteria (GPA = 2.43).

One of the most interesting and perhaps unsettling explanations of grade inflation is student sense of entitlement, a right to high grades without earning them. Often, students have not been held to high academic standards in the past and believe they deserve high grades [ 10]. There appear to be no studies published to date on the possible specific relationship between secondary school grade inflation and university or college grade inflation. Twenge and Campbell assert that "students are increasingly inundated with self-inflating messages throughout grade school" and that "these students then enter college with a sense of entitlement to grades, which is reinforced by evidence of grade inflation in U.S. college and universities" [ 11] (page 3).

Ciani et al. [ 12] examined gender differences in academic entitlement among college students and defined academic entitlement as a sense of entitlement to an A grade, the right to argue about a grade, or the belief that one does not have to put in much effort to receive a high grade. …

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