Category Archives: For the State

Grade Inflation and its Impact on Quality in Higher Education

by Dawid Wosik

Grade inflation in teaching – more precisely – in assessing student’s learning outcomes seems to be a day-to-day practice in higher education (e.g. Millet, 2010; http://gradeinflation.com/, 2013; Pressman, 2007). What kinds of grades do most of students receive? What can you see on graduates’ diplomas? Is it most often an “A” or “B”?

Considering that having inflated grades is nowadays a common practice, it’s worth reflecting what the consequences of such a situation are, as well as what sort of impact it has on quality in higher education.

There are many perspectives to take into account while analyzing possible effects of grade inflation. One of them is the student’s perspective and to which extent the grade inflation has an impact on his/her engagement in learning and gaining knowledge. There is no doubt that the engagement of a student in learning will depend on how the assessment strategy, and grades accordingly, reflect his/her actual academic performance (Asante, Al-Mahrooqi, Abrar-ul-Hassan, 2012). Will the student engage further if (s)he gets an “A” without putting too much effort to obtain it? What about the best of the best in the class? What sort of influence will it have on their morale if they receive the same grades as those who simply don’t deserve it?

The employer’s perspective indicates potential difficulties in recruiting graduates. Just imagine 100+ candidates with an “A” on their diplomas? Who is in fact the best candidate among all the applicants? An employer would be confused and would not be able to make a decision based on the overall Grade Point Average (GPA) as there is no distinction between the quality of candidates (at least in an academic sense).
The state, accordingly, recognizes the quality of the degrees with its authority and an emblem printed on the diploma. Often the quality of the degree (measured by the final grade) is not necessarily the quality which the program GPA demonstrates.

“Students should be assessed using published criteria, regulations and procedures which are applied consistently” (European Association for Quality, 2009). These criteria, regulations and procedures need to be communicated effectively among all interested parties.
What does it mean that a student gets an “A”, “B”, “C”, etc.? Does a “C” mean that the student has met basic course requirements – course learning outcomes which are defined in the course outline? Do “A” and “B” mean that a student has exceeded the course requirements?

Assessing students is one of those processes in higher education which unquestionably has a significant impact on the overall quality of a university. The lack of requirements and regulations in this matter as well as the lack of specific quality measures result in a false image of students’, and consequently, graduates’ academic ability.

What needs to be measured then and what kind of information needs to be disseminated within an implemented and maintained quality assurance system? Is there anything that needs to be taken into consideration while evaluating the performance of a teacher? Grade distribution (not necessarily having the Gaussian distribution as a standard to follow), the difference between the course work and the final exam results, common examinations (Bond, 2009) are only the examples of measuring grade consistency.

There are many practical solutions to this matter. Their efficiency will depend on a particular context which a university or a college operates in. There is no doubt though that this aspect of the learning process is critical while managing an overall academic performance. This implies, accordingly, the necessity of having implemented sufficient mechanisms to manage quality of the assessment process.

References:

[1] Asante C., Al-Mahrooqi R., Abrar-ul-Hassan S., The Effects of Three Teachers Variables on the Use of Motivational Strategies in EFL Instruction in Oman, “TESOL Arabia Perspectives”, Vol. 19, No. 1, January 2012, p. 12-22.
[2] Bond, L. (2009). The Case for Common Examination. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Retrieved January 23, 2013 from http://www.carnegiefoundation.org/perspectives/case-common-examinations.
[3] European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education, Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area, 2009, 3rd edition.
[4] GradeInflation.com, Grade Inflation at American Colleges and Universities, retrieved January 23rd, 2013 from http://gradeinflation.com.
[5] Millet I., Improving Grading Consistency through Grade Lift Reporting, “Practical Assessment Research & Evaluation”, Vol. 15, No. 4, May 2010.
[6] Pressman S., The Economics of Grade Inflation, “Challenge”, vol. 50, no. 5, September/October 2007, pp. 93–102.

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Publish your point of view

Our mission is to disseminate quality awareness in higher education.

You are all welcome to publish your opinions and experiences on quality in higher education from any quality perspective.

Each of your entries will be considered individually.

Should you have any ideas or questions, please contact us: office@mea-universitas.com.

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Filed under For Candidates, For Employers, For Parents, For Students, For the State, For Universities

Who should be asked about quality in higher education?

by Dawid Wosik

Since quality in higher education can be described as “… a multidimensional, multi-level and dynamic concept, (…) which depends among other things on requirements set by different groups of interest (…)” (Vlãsceanu, L., Grünberg, L., Pârlea, D., 2007), thus all those groups should be asked about its evaluation. University accreditation is quite a holistic evaluation (institutional accreditation in particular as opposed to program accreditation), whereas opinion survey of employees, students, graduates or employers is a partial measurement as it presents only selected aspects of quality. For instance, the employees opinion survey will provide data on the climate at a university. This factor has great impact on the employee’s (internal customer) motivation to fulfill their duties and determines to some extent student’s satisfaction (external customer). There is no satisfied external customer without satisfying an internal customer first.

Feedback obtained from employers or university graduates is likely to entail the need of adjustments in courses’ contents, especially in cases where one or more expected educational outcomes have not been fully achieved.

There is no doubt that the complex approach to quality evaluation in education should include not only students opinion survey, but also opinion surveys of employees, graduates and employers.

[1] Vlãsceanu, L., Grünberg, L., and Pârlea, D., 2007, Quality Assurance and Accreditation: A Glossary of Basic Terms and Definitions (Bucharest, UNESCO- CEPES) Papers on Higher Education.

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Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area

by Dawid Wosik

Adopted by Bologna Ministers in 2005 Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area outline the requirements for quality assurance within the European Higher Education Area. In the context of internal factors determining quality in higher education, the first part of the compilation: „European standards and guidelines for internal quality assurance within higher education institutions” gains great significance. Although the chapter presents some components of the internal system of quality assurance, it doesn’t mention any specific and practical solutions with regard to each of them. It is still just standards and guidelines. ISO 9001 Standard also gives only an overview of universal requirements regarding quality management system. Their realization depends on each specific organization. Implemented solutions always depend on the context, in which a company or university is functioning.

For many best practices and other issues related to management and assurance of quality in higher education please keep visiting Mea Universitas portal, University Quality Profile and Quality Professional’s Blog.

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University Quality Profile

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