Archive for the ‘grade distribution’ Category

Pier Pressure-LHow can university professors be motivated? Faculty are typically driven by promotion and tenure guidelines which largely emphasize research and scholarship. Yet, each department, college and university has a diverse set of goals that are not encompassed by promotion and tenure.

I am reminded of a story from my first years of teaching. Our department head, a wise academic veteran, was frustrated at the course grade distributions that were inching higher each year. He solved the problem quickly and effectively with little fan-fair. He simply printed a copy of the grade distributions for each faculty member, course by course, and placed the print-out in the faculty mail room. Of course, no one wanted to be known as the “easy teacher” and faculty adjusted their grades down accordingly. Brilliant!

What is at work here? Recently, a colleague of mine said that the only real motivator in higher education is peer pressure.  There is some truth in this.   Faculty care very much about what their peers think. Don’t get me wrong, this certainly doesn’t mean that faculty won’t disagree and won’t protect ‘their turf’.  I am suggesting that cultural norms within an academic department play an extremely important role in the life of a faculty member.  In an era with few pay raises, academic leaders should first work to discover the values/norms within their department, college and university before considering change.

– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe


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