Eastern Economic Journal

, Volume 36, Issue 2, pp 151–163 | Cite as

Grades, Course Evaluations, and Academic Incentives

  • David A Love
  • Matthew J Kotchen
Article

Abstract

We develop a model that identifies a range of new and somewhat counterintuitive results about how the incentives created by academic institutions affect student and faculty behavior. The model provides a theoretical basis for grade inflation and the behavioral response of students. Comparative statics are used to analyze the effects of institutional expectations placed on faculty. The results show that placing more emphasis on course evaluations exacerbates the problems of grade inflation and can even decrease a professor's teaching effort. Increased emphasis on research productivity also decreases teaching effort and provides a further incentive to inflate grades. We use the model to analyze how grade targets can control grade inflation and align professorial incentives with institutional objectives. We also discuss the implications of the model for hiring, promotion, and tenure.

Keywords

grade inflation course evaluations teaching and research 

JEL Classifications

A20 A22 I20 

References

  1. Bar, T., V. Kadiyali, and A. Zussman . 2006. Information, Course Selection, and Grade Inflation, Manuscript, Cornell University.Google Scholar
  2. Betts, J.R. 1994. The Impact of Educational Standards on the Level and Distribution of Earnings. American Economic Review, 88 (1): 266–275.Google Scholar
  3. Chacko, T.I. 1983. Student Ratings of Instruction: A Function of Grading Standards. Educational Research Quarterly, 8 (2): 19–25.Google Scholar
  4. Chan, W., L. Hao, and W. Suen . 2002. Grade Inflation. Working Paper, The University of Hong Kong.Google Scholar
  5. Costin, F., W.T. Greenough, and R.J. Menges . 1971. Student Ratings of College Teaching: Reliability, Validity, and Usefulness. Review of Educational Research, 41: 511–535.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Costrell, R.M. 1994. A Simple Model of Educational Standards. American Economic Review, 84 (4): 956–971.Google Scholar
  7. Feldman, K.A. 1976. Grades and College Students’ Evaluations of Their Courses and Teachers. Research in Higher Education, 4: 69–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Gigliotti, R.J., and F.S. Buchtel . 1990. Attributional Bias and Course Evaluations. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82: 341–351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Greenwald, A.G., and G.M. Gillmore . 1997. Grading Leniency is a Removable Contaminant of Student Ratings. American Psychologist, 52 (11): 1209–1217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Healy, P. 2001. Harvard Figures Show Most of Its Grades are A's or B's. Boston Globe (November 21).Google Scholar
  11. Holmes, D.S. 1972. Effects of Grades and Disconfirmed Grade Expectancies on Students’ Evaluation of Their Instructor. Journal of Educational Psychology, 63: 130–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Isely, P., and H. Singh . 2005. Do Higher Grades Lead to Favorable Student Evaluations? Journal of Economic Education, 36 (1): 29–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Johnson, V.E. 2003. Grade Inflation: A Crisis in College Education. New York, NY: Springer-Verlag.Google Scholar
  14. Kanagaretnam, K., R. Mathieu, and A. Thevaranjan . 2003. An Economic Analysis of the Use of Student Evaluations: Implications for Universities. Managerial and Decision Economics, 24: 1–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Kuh, G., and S. Hu . 1999. Unraveling the Complexity of the Increase in College Grades from the Mid-1980s to the Mid-1990s. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 21 (3): 297–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Levine, A., and J.S. Cureton . 1998. When Hope and Fear Collide: A Portrait of Today's College Student. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  17. McKeachie, W.J. 1997. Student Ratings: Validity of Use. American Psychologist, 52 (11): 1218–1225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. McKenzie, R.B. 1975. The Economic Effects of Grade Inflation on Instructor Evaluations: A Theoretical Approach. Journal of Economic Education, 6 (2): 99–105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Merrow, J. 2005. The Undergraduate Experience; Survival of the Fittest. New York Times Magazine. (April 24) Sec. 4A, p. 21, col. 1.Google Scholar
  20. Nelson, J.P., and K.A. Lynch . 1984. Grade Inflation, Real Income, Simultaneity, and Teaching Evaluations. Journal of Economic Education, 15 (1): 21–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Rojstaczer, S. 2005. Grade Inflation at American Colleges and Universities, http://www.gradeinflation.com.
  22. Sabot, R., and J. Wakeman-Linn . 1991. Grade Inflation and Course Choice. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 5 (1): 159–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Stumpf, S.A., and R.D. Freedman . 1979. Expected Grade Covariation with Student Ratings of Instruction: Individual versus Class Effects. Journal of Educational Psychology, 71: 293–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Worthington, A.G., and P.T. Wong . 1979. Effects of Earned and Assigned Grades on Student Evaluations of an Instructor. Journal of Educational Psychology, 71: 764–775.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Zangenehzadeh, H. 1988. Grade Inflation: A Way Out. Journal of Economic Education, 19 (3): 217–226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Eastern Economic Association 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • David A Love
    • 1
  • Matthew J Kotchen
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of EconomicsWilliams College, South Academic Building, RM 202WilliamstownUSA
  2. 2.University of California, Santa Barbara and NBERCaliforniaUSA

Personalised recommendations