Should your grading patterns be public? In how much detail?

Back when I was a Brittain fellow at Georgia Tech, I was struck by the fact that students had full access to a faculty member’s grading history.  As I recall, you could look at the overall distribution of grades, but you could also break it down by course number, fall/spring/summer, maybe one or two other variables, and you could see the distribution over time.  That was a little disconcerting at first: I thought it laid an unseemly stress on the least important part of a class, without any contextualizing information.

I got over it pretty quickly.  And since the information was aggregated automatically, I seldom gave it another thought.  But I’ve been reflecting on this recently, in part because of my work on assessment and for our upcoming NEASC visit, and in part because of a general conversation about grade inflation.  Everyone knows that infamously asks students to rate professors’ “easiness.”

So I’m thinking about making my grading patterns publicly available on my campus homepage.  (Which I should update soon.)  Some questions:

  • Is there any reason not to do this?
  • Is there a reason not to do this, if you’re the only one doing it?
  • If the grades were available, what kinds of variables would one like to be able to plot?  (No promises: I’ll probably have to do this by hand.  But I’d like to know what people would find interesting.)
  • Do students look at faculty homepages?  I know that many students register for classes with the university portal open in one window, and in the other–would providing this information make a dent?

I have no particular motive here.  I’d like students to be able to make informed decisions about their courses, and it seems to me that if I have information, there’s no reason to hide it.  (I’m considering putting the full text of my evaluations online, too.  [My dept.’s evaluation form doesn’t have a numerical portion.]  But since that would entail typing up the comments from the 35-40 sections I’ve taught over the past 4 years, it’s Not. Going. to Happen. this summer. )

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