From time to time, instructors ask the question does every student have to pass? At the core of answering this question is understanding PACE’s view on grades and the connection to our mission, and the relationship of PACE with the University.
PACE’s mission is to provide educational opportunities to our students that relate to the work place. Knowledge and skills learned in our classrooms are intended for use in the workplace. By providing students with certificates and diplomas with the University’s logo, instructors are confirming to current and potential employers that students have achieved a standard within the courses and programs needed to meet the standards of the University’s Senate.
Employers are looking at those credentials as confirmation that a person has the ability to do certain jobs within the work place. Grades provide an indication to PACE that the student has those skills for granting credentials. Students are looking at those grades as confirmation that they can represent their skills and knowledge to employers as being at an acceptable level.
Grades should be viewed then as a gauge that students can use in judging their skills and knowledge. Are they proficient at different skills to different levels? Is their knowledge of a subject adequate to meet the demands of a particular task or job function? Are there areas for improvement? Are there areas that are outstanding?
If you think of a sports team, whether hockey, football, volley ball or soccer, not every player will perform all the skills needed for that sport to the same level. Some players will be better at passing than others; some players may be better at catching a football, while others may excel at blocking.
If you praise a player for their catching ability when they can’t hold onto the ball, they will have false expectations of their abilities as they try out for positions. If they are selected on the basis of that praise, their new team will not be appreciative if the player can’t catch the ball.
Grades are similar. Giving unjustifiably high marks builds false expectations in students, and creates false expectations in employers. Giving unjustifiably low grades can cause students to have low opinions of themselves, and cause employers to pass them over.
Clustering students into the top end of a grading scheme, or giving everyone a pass for a course, can also cause resentment between students. Students who have put large amounts of time and effort into producing quality work for a course may feel short changed by seeing peers who do little work receiving similar grades.
An established grading scheme for every method of evaluation on a course is critical to ensure that students are scored according to their knowledge and skills. Employers can then have confidence that students are presenting themselves with credible skills, which builds long term credibility for PACE courses.
In setting grades and designing rubrics, it is also important to keep in mind the expectations of the University itself around PACE courses. Many of our courses are articulated with courses in degree programs. This means that taking the PACE course is considered the equivalent of a degree course, sometimes at the second or third year level. Assessments and grades in these courses should be reflective of that recognition.
In short, no, not every student needs to pass a course. Nor does every student need to get an A+. Grades should be reflective of the demonstrated knowledge and skills a student has shown to meet the method of evaluation for the course.