June 15, 2019
June 15, 2019
October 19, 2019
Educational Research and Methods
This work-in-progress paper explores attitudes about and impact of different Grade Point Average (GPA) schemes. Research into college GPA has been on-going for the past few decades with debates on the impact of various grading systems. This includes research on comparing the traditional GPA (i.e. A, B, C, D, F) and plus/minus (i.e. A+, A, A-, etc.) systems on counteracting grade inflation and increasing differentiation between students, in an attempt to make GPA a better representation of students’ aptitude during and coming out of college. However, few papers consider the correlation of GPA to students’ enthusiasm, interest, or motivation with their coursework. This paper explores the relationship between interest in engineering and GPA, exploring the current grading systems as well as considering a more continuous scaling of GPA. We consider a continuous scale where course performance, expressed as a final percentage (0-100%), maps directly onto a 0-4.0 scale, without divisions associated with other schemes (e.g. A=4.0, A-=3.7, etc.). This approach creates greater numerical grade differentiation, and in this paper we explore the hypothesis that it may also increase student interest in engineering. in a traditional scheme, students in a specific grade band all get the same GPA (72%-78% corresponds to a “C” grade, which corresponds to 2.0GPA), implying the possibility that students near the lower threshold may perceive little opportunity to improve their letter grade and therefore not work to their full capacity. Under a continuous scale, students always have an opportunity to improve their GPA, and we suspect this may translate into a more consistent commitment to their coursework.
This research explored these areas using three distinct methods. Initially, primary analysis was conducted using simulated and gradebook data which compared the impact of a continuous GPA system with that of both traditional and plus/minus schemes, with the goal of observing the numerical differences between these systems. These results were then supplemented with surveys exploring the relationship between these systems and students’ attitudes about both coursework and overall college experience to understand how they affect motivation.
Our analysis suggests that a continuous grading scheme maintains the basic distribution of student grades in the course but reduces the sensitivity of an individual student’s GPA to actual course performance near grade boundaries (i.e., 77.8% is a C, while 78.2% is a C+). Survey responses also suggest that students take great interest in the greater GPA resolution associated with the continuous scale. However, although faculty consider this a research area with great potential, current university policies offer little opportunity for such a system to be used. However, with these apparent positive relationships between the relationship of GPA and motivation in engineering students, this research shows potential for greater understanding, and the possible implementation of a continuous scheme should not be discounted.
Chan, W. K., & Berger, E. J. (2019, June), A Preliminary Exploration of Student Attitudes about a Continuous Grade Point Average Scheme Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--31983
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