Let me interrupt my string of rankings related posts to discuss with
you another subject of paramount importance to law students: grades.
Last Wednesday, PrawfsBlawg posted the first in a series of grades-related posts, critiquing the "seminar exception."
For the uninitiated, most law schools exempt seminar classes from the
forced grading curve. PrawsfBlawg argues that the exception "gets the
goat" of many law students because some students load up on seminar
classes to pad their GPAs.
Maybe PrawfsBlawg and I run in
different circles, but I have never heard any law student complain
about this seminar exception. First, most students take advantage of
seminar classes at some point in their law school careers. They're
usually interesting courses and it's refreshing to be able to really
get into the material instead of having to focus on a grade for the
entire semester. Second, a forced curve just doesn't make sense in
smaller classes. If professors already have a difficult time accurately distinguishing students
enough to fit them into a forced curve for large classes, doing so for
smaller classes must be even more difficult. I could go on, but I've
got more grading items to discuss.
Last Thursday, PrawsfBlawg posted an item discussing the virtues of "flex courses."
These are courses where students can elect to receive 2 or 3 units
depending on how much work they want to put into the class.
PrawsfBlawg points out, flex courses, also known as variable credit
courses, give students scheduling flexibility without really
diminishing academic value. Sounds like a good idea to me. Some
schools (such as Davis) essentially offer flex courses by allowing
students in paper-based courses to conduct further research and write
longer papers for extra units as part of an independent research
project. Professor and dean approval is required and the independent
research grade is the same as the course grade.
Finally, yesterday, PrawsfBlawg posted an item asking whether professors should be allowed to change student grades after discussing them with students.
Apparently, many law schools flat out forbid professors from making
changes to grades based on qualitative considerations after they've
handed them in. These schools will only allow professors to change
their grades based on computational errors.
I don't see
any problem with giving professors the discretion to change their
grades, and the argument that "law students like to argue" seems
particularly weak. I doubt these policies deters students from
pestering their professors about grades, since most law students, like
me, probably don't even know about their school's policy.
you have it. Three grade issues tightly wrapped with glib analysis.
The PrawfsBlawg items, of course, contain in depth theoretical and
statistical analysis of each topic, so check them out if my musings
aren't enough for you.