University to Examine Its Grading Practices
Harvard will undertake a broad investigation next year of the role of grades in the University.
The study, to be conducted by the 10-member Committee on Instruction, will try to assess changes in the importance of grades over the past two decades. Dean Ford, the committee's chairman, said yesterday that the study is not specifically aimed at altering Harvard's grading system.
"There seems to be a mounting malaise about grades," he said. "The issue is one of the toughest the system faces, but it's too basic for us not to be talking about it."
The committee intends to gather all the information it can about the patterns and effects of grading at Harvard and then release a report on its findings. Once the report is finished-it might take more than a year-the Committee on Educational Policy (CEP) could recommend any changes in present practices, Ford said.
The issues that will be studied next year include:
* The improvement of Harvard student's average grades and average PRL (Predicted Rank List). Preliminary studies show, Ford said, that the average grade has risen from a C plus to a B minus over the past 20 years. The Committee will want to see whether the grade increases coincide with the higher PRL's.
* Whether or not students really want or need grades. "For some people, we know that grades have a damaging, cramping effect," Ford said. "But for others, they seem very important. Some people need the reassurance of grades, and others feel cheated if they don't get a price tag for their effort."
* The need of grades for applications for graduate schools. "Perhaps we can keep enough grades to satisfy the professional needs of the students and our own curiosity and, at the same time, get some flexibility into the system."
Ford indicated that these were his own personal interests and that a variety of other issues may be raised. The study will concentrate, he said, on grades in the Graduate School of Education, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and the College.
The Committee on Instruction is a joint committee between the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the Faculty of Education. Theodore R. Sizer, Dean of the School of Education, is co-chairman, with Dean Ford.
This is the first year of the committee's operation. It was established last Spring to investigate teaching techniques and practices.