A transparent and rigorous evaluation system is expected to be implemented in the academic system to ensure a complete professional education. Globally, in academics, bell curve is a method of assigning grades designed to yield a preferred distribution of grades among the students in a class. Stringently speaking, grading on a bell curve refers to the assigning of grades according to the distribution known as the normal distribution. But in the Indian scenario, few universities fail to follow the global pattern of assigning grades. This paper tries to project the anomaly in the evaluation system and opens the window for the administrators to take stock of the situation and enable corrective measures for the betterment of the students and society.
Key Words: Moderation; Grades; Evaluation; Normal Distribution; Bell Curve
There are certain issues in the evaluation system of engineering college examination which we would like to represent. Few universities in India has the following pattern of awarding grades to the students as mentioned in Table 1. When the question paper for the university examination is tough, moderate, easy, difference in marking among the evaluators, wide gap is observed in the performance of the students; moderation comes in to picture. To ensure impartiality, precision and consistency in marking and the provision of results, moderations are an accurate reflection of performance and can be trusted upon by students and staff fraternity within the institution. The idea behind the policy of moderation, is to guarantee a level playing turf for all the students keeping in mind the difficulty level of some questions, differences between varieties of question paper, and marking techniques.
In universal education system, grading on a bell curve is a method designed to assign grades to yield a desired distribution of grades among the students in a class. This bell curve grading assigns grades to students based on their relative performance in comparison to classmates’ performance.
The university has to decide what grade occupies the center of the distribution by calculating the average grade for the population. This is the grade an average score will earn, and will be the most common. Traditionally, in the S-A-B-C-D-E system ‘B’ and ‘C’ grade occupy the centre of the bell curve. The university should also decide what portion of the frequency distribution each grade should occupy and whether or not high and low grades are symmetrically assigned under the curve. For example, if the top score on an exam is 60 out of 65, all students’ absolute scores will be increased by 5 before being compared to a pre-determined set of grading benchmarks (for example the common A>90%>B>80% etc. system). This method prevents unusually hard assignments (usually exams) from unfairly reducing students grades but relies on the assumption that the top student’s performance is a good measure of an assignment’s difficulty.
In a true bell curve grading method, a test population of 100 students should have 2 students with a grade of ‘S’, 14 students with a ‘A’, a total of 68 with ‘B’ and ‘C’, 14 with a ‘D’ and 2 with a grade of ‘E’. But as far as our few Indian Universities are concerned, evaluation and declaring of results are concerned, the bell curve mentioned above is not at all followed. Instead of a bell curve (inverted ‘U’), ‘N’ curve is generated for most of the subjects in which the question paper is tough or the performance gap is more between the students who appear for the examination. In the name of moderation, we are denying justice to students who score originally a pass grade. Injustice is done by not upgrading the grades of the originally passed students and upgrading the failed students, which leads to violation of bell curve, which is supposed to be the universal system all over the globe. The application of the bell curve in examination results assumes that in any population, performance will follow the normal distribution, with the majority of the students tending towards the average, a few above it and a few below. This implies that performance is relative and not absolute.
Over the past decade, the moderation policy followed by our controller of examination of certain university has meant an artificial increase in the number of students scoring ‘E’ grade. The idea is to have a distribution of results within the bell curve, which states that the number of students who perform poorly and those who perform exceedingly well are much fewer than the ones who fall within the average category. When results are plotted on a graph, it resembles a bell. Over the years, however, the moderation policy has ended up skewing the results on only one side of the bell, meaning, the number of students who score ‘E’ grade has grown leaps and bounds.
Professors, too, have their concerns about grade deflation and anti-inflation policies on our own careers. While institutions are not taking too many measures to combat grade inflation, there are several key pressures faculty members face when assigning grades, and these may cause us to feel uneasy or hesitant to immediately switch over to a strict regimen of grade deflation. These pressures in no way excuse or minimize the ethical implications of grade inflation, nor do we seek to undermine the efforts of those striving to curtail what is indeed a significant and widespread problem in higher education today. Our purpose is only to suggest some of the underlying causes of this epidemic from a faculty perspective; to point out some of the pressures society face as they assign students grades, Eubanks, P. (2011).
Problems do not have easy answers, and they don’t always have “right” answers. Confusion is common as students often make it hard to solve problems involving competing interests. It’s a difficult job with tough challenges that cannot always be resolved by reading a book or looking up a statute. Students need to know what they are signing a course for. Most students believe grades are everything. They are rarely interested in whether they are learning how to be a good professional unless that helps them get a better grade. In the meantime, they resist confusion, perceived inconsistency, or anything else that detracts them from the most efficient path to a good grade. The pressure to perform well and secure a good grade defines their objectives in many critical ways. Edwards T (2012)
The list of complaints about how colleges conduct course evaluations is long and seems to keep getting longer. Based on the regular appearance of articles questioning the value and use of student ratings and suggesting that they are universally reviled by faculty, two concerns can be raised. First, concerns about the use of student ratings have not been sufficiently addressed. Second, what we know about student ratings from the research literature is not reaching faculty or administrators ( Bernhard, 2015). Grades awarded to undergraduates have risen substantially in the last few decades, and grade inflation has become particularly pronounced at selective and private colleges, a new analysis of data on grading practices has found. At private institutions, students are consumers expecting that their diplomas and transcripts be worth what they (or their parents) have paid for them. At more selective institutions, students enter with ever-higher high school G.P.A.s and “you don’t want the student to come to your office in tears for a ‘B’ or ‘C’ (Epstein J, 2010). According to one widely circulated grading template, an ‘A’ should signify that a student is unquestionably prepared for subsequent courses in the field. But if an institution hands out buckets of A’s to students who really aren’t prepared, it speaks about the imbalance in the grading system Glenn, D. (2011).
Interpretation of few courses
Figs.(1-5) showcases the grade distribution of courses ‘X’, ‘Y’,’Z’,’P’ and ‘Q’. Consider Fig.1, which depicts the grades awarded to student for a particular course ‘X’. There are two curves in the figure. One curve denotes the published result for the course and the other curve denotes the simulated bell curve for the result published. It is very well evident that the published result seems to be moderated only for the ‘E’ grade and bell curve is not followed. The published result is a sinusoidal curve and the ‘E’ grade is dominating. The case with the course ‘Z’, ‘P’ and ‘Q’ is worse than the course ‘X’ and ‘Y’.
Rather than creating a level playing field, the current form of moderation deludes applicants and parents who think they are entitled to pass by securing ‘E’ grade. This generates outrage when students who are admitted, without writing the exam properly, they attain a pass grade in any subject. What they forget is that hundreds of others who have secured above ‘E’ grade are being pushed to a state of mental agony as their performance is not respected. This present system of moderation has already driven out healthy competition inside the classroom and college. A reality check will endorse marks being dumped unnecessarily to push the failed students to secure a pass grade. The anomaly in the moderation system, which is boosting the ‘U’ grade to ‘E’ grade creates a mindset in students that they can pass without studying the subjects. A fair moderation system should ensure that the benefit of the moderation reaches all the students. The moderation may be fixed based on the level of difficulty of the question paper and the grade distribution should follow bell curve. The grade distribution curve which we have attached is arrived for few courses clearly brings out the pathetic state of moderation, where students who score more on their own have been neglected for moderation.
1. To induce a healthy competition between the students, reduce the mental agony of highly performing students, embarrassment of teachers, eradicating the artificial push of failed students to get a pass grade and to ensure our graduates as employable engineers, normal distribution should be followed in the grading system.
2. The system of moderation should be switched over to the system which globally many premier institutes follow.