10 août 2011

Why We Inflate Grades

http://sparkaction.org/sites/sparkaction.org/files/imagecache/primary_image/image/fromthefield/inside%20higher%20ed.jpgBy Peter Eubanks. Peter Eubanks is assistant professor of French at James Madison University. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill made headlines recently by announcing a plan to fight grade inflation: all grades received will be contextualized on student transcripts, allowing graduate schools and potential employers to see grade distributions for each course and thus to determine just how much value to attach to those ever-prevalent As and Bs. This move is the latest in a series of attacks on what is perceived by many (rightly) to be an epidemic in higher education today, particularly among those institutions that seem to do well in the national rankings.
Student anxiety about such policies is understandable. Graduating seniors are naturally concerned about their competitiveness during difficult economic times, while juniors and seniors worry that they may be passed up for fellowships, summer programs, or other academic opportunities on account of a lowered grade-point average.
Professors, too, have their concerns about grade deflation; we not only care about our students’ successes but also about the implications of anti-inflation policies on our own careers. While institutions are increasingly taking 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 about immediately subscribing to a strict regimen of grade deflation. These pressures in no way excuse or minimize the ethical implications of grade inflation, nor do I seek to undermine the efforts of those striving to curtail what is indeed a significant and widespread problem in higher education today. My purpose is only to suggest some of the underlying causes of this epidemic from a faculty perspective; to point out some of the pressures faculty face as they assign their students grades. These pressures, as I see it, come from three primary sources:
Pressure from students: Most professors are experienced in the familiar end-of-semester scene in which a student comes to office hours to argue for a higher grade. Such discussions often involve a student’s disputation of minutiae from past exams, papers, and assignments, all in the hope of gaining a point or two here and there and thus retroactively improving his or her grade. Such discussions can be quite time-consuming, and they often come at the busiest time of the semester, thus bringing with them the temptation to do whatever it takes to close the matter and move along. There may also be a nagging fear that minor grading errors have indeed been made and that the student should be given the benefit of the doubt. With ever-increasing college costs and the inevitable sense of student entitlement and consumerism that follow, such discussions are becoming all too common. and are not always limited to the end of the semester. Even more important, many faculty members dread and even fear the negative classroom atmosphere that often results from giving students "bad" grades (i.e.. C or below, though even a B fits this category for many), particularly in courses dependent on student discussion and participation, such as a seminar or a foreign language class.
Pressure from administrators: Success with student evaluations is a career necessity, whether one is a young scholar seeking the elusive Elysium of tenure or one belongs to that now-majority of faculty members who teach part-time or on an adjunct basis and are dependent on positive student evaluations for reappointment. At teaching-intensive colleges and universities, in particular, student evaluations are often of paramount importance, and faculty members must do what they can to keep their customers happy. Many faculty members feel, and numerous studies seem to suggest, that generous grade distributions correspond to positive teaching evaluations, so many faculty members, under pressure from administrators to produce good evaluations, feel a temptation to inflate grades to secure their own livelihoods. Since administrators usually have neither the time nor the expertise to make independent evaluations of a professor’s teaching ability (imagine a dean with both the leisure and the proficiency to sit in on and evaluate in the same semester both a Russian literature course and an advanced macroeconomics course, without having done any of the previous coursework...) they must rely heavily on student descriptions of what goes on in the classroom, descriptions that are often contradictory and that unfortunately do not always cohere.

Pressure from colleagues: Some faculty who wish to curb grade inflation may feel that they are the only ones fighting the problem. If everyone else is giving out inflated grades, why should they be the ones to stand alone, only to incur the displeasure of students who may be confused by inconsistent standards? As college freshmen arrive on campus increasingly unprepared for college work, faculty members, inheriting a problem passed on to them by their colleagues in secondary education, often have the difficult task of trying to determine reasonable standards of achievement. It takes effort and planning for faculty to balance their professional responsibilities to both their respective disciplines and to their students’ positive academic experience. In an era where budget cuts affect most severely those departments and programs with low enrollments, no one wants to lose the bidding war for students, and many professors, particularly those in vulnerable fields, fear that a "strict constructionist" approach to grade deflation may cost them student interest and consequently much-needed institutional support, both of which risk being redistributed to more favored colleagues. Furthermore, the seemingly ubiquitous nature of grade inflation may simplify the ethical quandaries involved: if everyone understands that grades are being unfairly inflated, then there may, in fact, be no unfairness involved at all, since the very transparency of grade inflation thus removes any sense of deception that may linger in our minds.
There is a final pressure to grade inflate, and it comes from ourselves. It may be the disquieting feeling that our own efforts in the classroom have sometimes been inadequate, that poor student performance reflects poor preparation or teaching on our part, and that grades must be inflated to compensate for our failings. It may come from the difficulties inherent in assigning grades to elusive and ultimately unquantifiable phenomena such as class participation, essays, student presentations, and the like. In such cases, grade inflation ceases to function as a lazy or disinterested tool for maintaining steady waters; it becomes, instead, a corrective measure seeking to make restitution for our own perceived shortcomings.
If we are honest with ourselves about the pressures we face as we engage in what is one of our profession’s most unavoidable and routine tasks — assigning grades — we can begin to think seriously about the part all of us play in inflating grades. Examining the underlying causes of why we grade-inflate is the beginning of doing something serious about it.

Posté par pcassuto à 06:33 - - Permalien [#]

UNESCO Chairs, UNITWIN Networks and Inter-University cooperation

http://www.asianust.ac.th/_images/UNESCO-UNITWIN.pngUNITWIN is the abbreviation for the University Twinning and Networking Programme. The Programme was established in 1992 following the relevant decision of UNESCO’s General Conference taken at its 26th session. UNESCO Chairs and UNITWIN Networks undertake training, research, information sharing and outreach activities in UNESCO major programmes areas: education, natural sciences, social and human sciences, culture, and communication and information. They develop a real partnership with UNESCO with active participation and cooperation in evaluating their programme and activities.
The UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs Programme was conceived as a way to advance research, training and programme development in all of UNESCO’s fields of competence by building university networks and encouraging inter-university cooperation through the transfer of knowledge across borders. Since it was established in 1992, the programme has aroused great interest among Member States. The UNITWIN programme aims to be pertinent, forward-thinking and to impact socio-economic development effectively. So far UNESCO Chair and UNITWIN Network projects have proven useful in establishing new teaching programmes, generating new ideas through research and reflection, and facilitating the enrichment of existing university programmes while respecting cultural diversity.
Today, 715 UNESCO Chairs and 69 UNITWIN Networks in 131 countries provide an innovative modality for international academic cooperation, particularly with North-South and North-South-South dimension, and for capacity development. They act as think tanks and bridge builders between research and policy-making, and between academia, civil society, local communities and the productive sector. They are established within the Programme, involving over 830 institutions in 131 countries. Since the adoption of new strategic orientations for the UNITWIN Programme by the Executive Board at its 176th session in April 2007, emphasis has been placed on:
- The dual function of UNESCO Chairs and UNITWIN Networks as “think tanks” and “bridge builders” between the academic world, civil society, local communities, research and policy-making;
- Realignment with UNESCO’s priorities (Medium Term Strategy for 2008-2013);
- Readjust geographic imbalance which is now in favour of the North;
- Stimulate triangular North-South-South cooperation;
- Creation of regional or sub-regional poles of innovation and excellence;
- Closer cooperation with the United Nations University (UNU).
UNESCO Portal on Higher Education Institutions

This portal offers access to on-line information on higher education institutions recognized or otherwise sanctioned by competent authorities in participating countries. It provides students, employers and other interested parties with access to authoritative and up-to-date information on the status of higher education institutions and quality assurance in these countries. The country information on this portal is managed and updated by relevant authorities in participating countries. More information on the national processes for recognizing or otherwise sanctioning institutions is available on the country pages.
Users are encouraged to consult several sources of information before making important decisions regarding matters such as the choice of an institution, course of study or the status of qualifications. Individuals wishing to have their qualifications recognized for work or further study are advised to consult the competent authorities of the country in which they are seeking to have their qualifications recognised. It is also important to note that some institutions not on the national lists may offer quality programmes. Users are encouraged to contact the national contact point(s) for each country, if necessary, for further information.

Posté par pcassuto à 05:19 - - Permalien [#]
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UNESCO Director-General pleads for balance in university rankings

http://www.unesco.org/new/fileadmin/unesco/images/logo_en.gifA quality higher education for all should balance research, teaching and community service, declared UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova as she opened the UNESCO Global Forum on Rankings and Accountability in Higher Education: Uses and Misuses (Paris, 16-17 May 2011). She pointed out that comparisons between universities sometimes focus more on quantitative rather than qualitative aspects of education.
Participants in the forum include Qian Tang, Assistant UNESCO Director-General for Education, Jamil Salmi, the World Bank’s Tertiary Education Coordinator, and Barbara Ischinger, the OECD’s Director for Education, along with leaders of the international rankings community and education stakeholders from around the world. The debates at the two-day Forum will shed light on the methodology behind university rankings and question their influence on education policy. Participants will also look at accountability tools for higher education. Official Forum Website. UNESCO and Higher Education.

Address by Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO on the occasion of the UNESCO Global Forum Rankings and Accountability in Higher Education UNESCO, 16 May 2011
L’UNESCO a reçu un mandat très clair pour promouvoir l'accès à l’enseignement supérieur de qualité pour tous, et bénéficie d’une longue expérience dans ce domaine. Aujourd’hui les universités se livrent à une concurrence internationale dans tous les domaines. Cette globalisation de l'enseignement supérieur a fait naître de nouveaux mécanismes d'évaluation quantitative, qualitative, et toute une série de classements. C’est un sujet central, peut-être même le sujet du moment. Les résultats de ces classements sont repris dans la presse, ils sont attendus avec inquiétude, ils sont affichés parfois avec fierté. Ils font aussi l’objet de controverses. Les critiques viennent de plusieurs directions.
Une partie de la communauté éducative reproche à ces classements de juger sur de mauvais critères, de se concentrer sur la recherche, sur le nombre d’articles publiés, de négliger la fonction d'enseignement, qui est pourtant essentielle. On a également reproché aux classements internationaux d’accorder beaucoup trop d’attention aux données quantitatives, au détriment des aspects qualitatifs.
La concurrence et les comparaisons internationales peuvent être positives et utiles - pour y voir clair dans un paysage complexe, pour définir des critères d'évaluation et permettre à tous de rendre des comptes. Mais aucun classement ne dira jamais comment promouvoir un enseignement supérieur de qualité ouvert à tous, qui s’acquitte de ses trois missions fondamentales : la recherche, l'enseignement et le service de la communauté. De ce point de vue, il est bon de diversifier les classements, d’élargir le spectre d’observation des systèmes éducatifs, et surtout de donner le mode d’emploi de ces classements, car certains, peut-être, leur demandent plus que ce qu’ils peuvent donner. Cela vaut pour tous les classements.
La difficulté consiste à concevoir, à l’échelle mondiale et dans chaque pays, des systèmes d'enseignement supérieur capables de faire face à la diversification croissante de la demande – surtout si 50 % ou plus de la population accède à l'enseignement supérieur. La difficulté consiste aussi, peut-être, pour le grand public comme pour les décideurs politiques, à penser les classements comme un outil au service des systèmes éducatifs, et ne pas mettre les systèmes éducatifs au service des classements. Oui, nous devons réfléchir avec la plus grande vigilance à l'impact des classements sur les politiques gouvernementales.
Ce Forum mondial constitue une excellente opportunité d'explorer la nature des classements d'universités et de discuter de la variété des outils de responsabilisation existants. Cela nous aidera, je l’espère, à faire les bons choix – des choix propres à resserrer les liens entre l'enseignement supérieur et le développement humain, à renforcer les sociétés du savoir. C’est le rôle de l'UNESCO depuis 65 ans, en coopération avec tous ses partenaires.
Nous avons élaboré avec l’OCDE, en 2005, les Lignes directrices pour des prestations de qualité dans l'enseignement supérieur transfrontalier. Nous travaillons également avec la Banque Mondiale, depuis 2008, sur l’Initiative tendant à promouvoir l'assurance qualité dans les pays en voie de développement. L’UNESCO entend jouer pleinement son rôle important de plaque tournante internationale et continuer à développer son Portail interactif sur les établissements d'enseignement supérieur. Notre objectif est de fournir à tous une information fiable et transparente sur les classements d'universités, qui permette à chacun de comprendre comment ils sont fait, en quoi ils peuvent être utiles, et qui donne aux Etats les moyens de concevoir, en toute connaissance de cause, un enseignement supérieur de qualité.

Posté par pcassuto à 04:59 - - Permalien [#]

Bologna Process - Ministerial conference websites

http://www.ehea.info/Themes/bologna/images/bologna_logo.jpgEuropean Higher Education Area website (the official Bologna Process website 2010 – 2012): http://www.ehea.info/.

Ministerial conference websites:
Prague 18 – 19 May 2001: http://www.bologna.msmt.cz/.

At their meeting in Bologna the Ministers decided to meet again in Prague in 2001, to assess the progress achieved and
settle priorities for the future development of the European Higher Education Area. Prague Summit is organised
under the auspices of the President of the Czech Republic, Mr. Václav Havel.
Berlin 18 – 19 September 2003: http://www.bologna-berlin2003.de/.

Realising the European Higher Education Area, Conference of European Ministers responsible for Higher Education. The follow-up meeting of the European Ministers in charge of Higher Education took place in Berlin on 18 and 19 September. Ministers reviewed the progress achieved since the Prague meeting in 2001 and set directions and concrete priorities for the next 20 months, before they met again in May 2005 in Bergen/Norway. The next meeting will take place in London, GB, in 2007.
Bergen 19 – 20 May 2005: http://www.bologna-bergen2005.no/.
From Berlin to Bergen and beyond

Ministers responsible for higher education in 45 European countries met in Bergen on 19-20 May 2005.
Ministers took stock of the progress of the Bologna Process and set directions for the further development towards the European Higher Education Area to be realised by 2010.
This is the official Bologna Process web site for the period January 2004 - June 2005.
No changes will be done on this page from July 2005 and onwards.
From July 2005 the United Kingdom has established the new Bologna Process web site.
London 17 – 18 May 2007: http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/.
The Bologna Process:  Bergen to London - 1 July 2005 to 30 June 2007

The UK provided a Secretariat to the Bologna Follow Up Group and its Board for the two year period up to 30 June 2007.  Our aim during this time was to provide information and news about the work programme and developments in the Bologna Process leading up to the Bologna 5th Ministerial Conference in London on 17-18 May 2007. Documentation on the Work Programme and the Conference, - including the London Communique and Bologna Process Stocktaking London 2007 - may be accessed via the relevant Meeting / Working Group folders or the Document Library of this website.  Other website pages provide information on related News and Events between July 2005 and June 2007.
The Bologna Process: 1 July 2007 to 30 June 2009
From 1 July 2007 responsibility for providing the Secretariat passed to the Benelux Countries and no further changes will be made to this website.  The new official website address is: http://www.bologna2009benelux.org/ and the contact email address for the new Secretariat is: secr@bologna2009benelux.org. The Bologna 6th Ministerial Conference will take place in Leuven/Louvain-la-Neuve on 28-29 April 2009.
The Bologna Process:  to June 2005
Documentation to June 2005 - including information on the Bologna 4th Ministerial Conference in Bergen on 19-20 May 2005 and the Bergen Communiqué - can be accessed via the official Bologna-Bergen website formerly managed by the Norwegian Secretariat.
Leuven – Louvain la Neuve 27 – 28 April 2009: http://www.ond.vlaanderen.be/.

Welcome to the European Higher Education Area !
This website was the official website of the Bologna Process for the period 1 July 2007 until 30 June 2010. No changes will be made from July 2010 onwards. Permanent website of the European Higher Education Area officially launched on 5 July 2010.
Budapest-Vienna Declaration & Vienna Bologna Policy Forum Statement adopted

On 12 March 2010, the Minsters of the now 47 countries participating in the Bologna Process adopted the Budapest-Vienna Declaration and officially launched the European Higher Education Area. Read more. The Conference of the European Higher Education Area Ministers was followed by a meeting with Ministers from different parts of the world in the Second Bologna Policy Forum on "Building the Global Knowledge Society: Systemic and Institutional Change in Higher Education" that was concluded with the Vienna Bologna Policy Forum Statement.
On 28 and 29 April 2009, the Ministers responsible for higher education in the then 46 countries of the Bologna Process met in Leuven and Louvain-la-Neuve to establish the priorities for the European Higher Education Area until 2020. They highlighted in particular the importance of lifelong learning, widening access to higher education, and mobility. By 2020, at least 20% of those graduating in the European Higher Education Area should have had a study or training period abroad. For more details read the full Leuven/Louvain-la-Neuve Communiqué or see the conference website.
Budapest – Vienna 10 – 12 March 2010 : http://www.ond.vlaanderen.be/.

This website was the official website of the Bologna Process for the period 1 July 2007 until 30 June 2010. No changes will be made from July 2010 onwards. Permanent website of the European Higher Education Area officially launched on 5 July 2010.

Posté par pcassuto à 03:10 - - Permalien [#]

Funding of Higher Education - Yerevan, Armenia

http://www.ehea.info/Themes/bologna/images/bologna_logo.jpgThis conference is organized in the framework of the Bologna Process towards the formation of a shared vision on EHEA to ensure more comparable, compatible and coherent systems of higher education in Europe and responding to the challenges of globalization. The draft conference programme is available here: Funding of Higher Education.
“Funding of Higher Education”
Yerevan, Armenia / September 8 - 9 2011
International conference organized by the Ministry of Education and Science of Armenia

Context: This conference is organized in the framework of the Bologna Process towards the formation of a shared vision on EHEA to ensure more comparable, compatible and coherent systems of higher education in Europe and responding to the challenges of globalization.
The conference will be a part of the events in the framework of Polish and Armenian co presidency of the Bologna Process during the period 1 July-31 December, 2011.
Aims and objectives:
• To provide a platform for exchange of relevant experience in the HE financing issues;
• To identify concretely the role that financing can play in achieving efficiency, equity and quality in Higher Education;
• To explore new knowledge and experience in financing mechanisms of Higher Education;
• To promote a shared understanding of the developments within the Bologna Framework.
Participants: 100 – 150 Ministry and higher education officials, students and representatives of other public authorities from Armenia and Europe, international organizations and NGOs.
Languages: English and Armenian with simultaneous interpretation in the plenary sessions and in the working groups.

Posté par pcassuto à 00:46 - - Permalien [#]
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