Does the Grading System in College Ensure Fairness?


Written by Amanda Longhenry

The college grading system has long been a subject of debate, with opinions divided on its fairness and effectiveness. While some individuals advocate for a grading system that prioritizes a few key assignments as a means to assess students accurately, others raise valid concerns about its potential drawbacks. On one side, there are proponents who argue that a grading system that heavily relies on a few key assignments can provide a more accurate representation of a student's capabilities. They believe that this approach allows for a deeper assessment of a student's understanding and mastery of the subject matter. Conversely, critics contend that relying heavily on a limited number of assignments may overlook important aspects of a student's overall performance and hinder a comprehensive understanding of their abilities. As the debate continues, it becomes crucial to explore the various perspectives and considerations surrounding the college grading system.

Is Our Few-Assessment Grading System Fair?

It Is Fair

Focus on mastery: Advocates of the grading system that prioritizes a few assignments assert that it places significant emphasis on students' mastery of the course material. Through its emphasis on a select few projects or exams, this grading system facilitates a comprehensive understanding and mastery of the material, rather than merely prioritizing the completion of numerous assignments. Furthermore, prioritizing mastery encourages educational flexibility, enabling students to learn at a pace that aligns better with their individual needs and abilities.

Efficient assessment: Advocates of this grading system argue that it enables instructors to dedicate more attention to providing comprehensive feedback and conducting a thorough evaluation of each student's work. Feedback plays a pivotal role in student learning, as it offers valuable insights into areas of improvement, enhances their understanding of concepts, and guides them in honing their skills for future assignments or assessments. Consequently, advocates believe this approach fosters a fairer assessment of their understanding and abilities.

Simplicity and clarity: Adopting a grading system that emphasizes a limited number of assignments offers simplicity and clarity in terms of expectations and evaluation criteria. Supporters believe that this approach enables students to develop a clear understanding of the requirements for success in the course, while instructors can provide precise guidelines for attaining the desired learning outcomes. By clarifying what is expected of them and how they will be evaluated, supporters believe students can actively and meaningfully engage with the course material, enabling them to make informed decisions regarding their own learning strategies. 

It Is Unfair

Limited representation: Critics argue that depending solely on a handful of assessments to evaluate a student fails to provide an accurate reflection of their capabilities. This limitation arises from the insufficient opportunities given to students to demonstrate their learning across a diverse array of topics.

Variability: As aforementioned, it can be argued that a limited number of assessments is not an accurate representation of students’ knowledge on a subject. Expanding on this viewpoint, some critics believe that the performance of students can fluctuate across various assignments, making it challenging for a single grade to provide an accurate representation of their overall comprehension of the subject matter. Hence, because assignments can vary in difficulty, relying on a limited number of them may fail to capture the full breadth of a student's capabilities.

High-stakes pressure: When a substantial proportion of the grade relies on a restricted set of assignments, the intensity to excel in those specific tasks can intensify. Consequently, this heightened pressure can induce stress and anxiety among students, potentially impeding their capacity to learn and thrive. Students with disabilities can be further adversely affected by this circumstance, exacerbating the challenges they already face.

Unforeseen circumstances: Life events and unexpected circumstances can impact a student's ability to perform optimally on a small number of assignments. Illness, personal issues, or technological difficulties may prevent a student from showcasing their true abilities in those particular assessments, leading to an unfair evaluation. Alternatively, instructors may opt to redistribute the weight to another assignment or exam, which can have similar negative repercussions as previously mentioned.

Crafting an inherently fair grading system proves challenging as individuals possess distinct needs and preferences when it comes to learning. However, we can all agree that we want to provide students with an equitable opportunity to succeed and accomplish the results they strive for, whether we believe the current system is fair or not. Hence, it is crucial to support students with many resources in order to enable them in their academic journeys. TUEX Education firmly believes that offering students a diverse selection of affordable tutors serves as an additional resource to enhance their academic achievements, regardless of the grading system.