Grades, Course Evaluations, and Academic Incentives
- 31 Downloads
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.
Keywordsgrade inflation course evaluations teaching and research
JEL ClassificationsA20 A22 I20
- Bar, T., V. Kadiyali, and A. Zussman . 2006. Information, Course Selection, and Grade Inflation, Manuscript, Cornell University.Google Scholar
- 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
- Chacko, T.I. 1983. Student Ratings of Instruction: A Function of Grading Standards. Educational Research Quarterly, 8 (2): 19–25.Google Scholar
- Chan, W., L. Hao, and W. Suen . 2002. Grade Inflation. Working Paper, The University of Hong Kong.Google Scholar
- Costrell, R.M. 1994. A Simple Model of Educational Standards. American Economic Review, 84 (4): 956–971.Google Scholar
- Healy, P. 2001. Harvard Figures Show Most of Its Grades are A's or B's. Boston Globe (November 21).Google Scholar
- Johnson, V.E. 2003. Grade Inflation: A Crisis in College Education. New York, NY: Springer-Verlag.Google Scholar
- 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
- Merrow, J. 2005. The Undergraduate Experience; Survival of the Fittest. New York Times Magazine. (April 24) Sec. 4A, p. 21, col. 1.Google Scholar
- Rojstaczer, S. 2005. Grade Inflation at American Colleges and Universities, http://www.gradeinflation.com.