Plus/minus scale 10/31

Andy Alt, assistant vice provost, lead the forum, detailing the grading scale proposal and answering questions.

Undergraduate Student Government held a public forum Oct. 22 to discuss the outcomes of a proposed plus/minus grading scale. In the room, at least 25 undergraduate students filled both the left and the right rows of chairs. A handful of professors came too, with most of them sitting in the back to observe the forum and presentation. 

The forum was fronted by Assistant Vice Provost Andy Alt, a two-time BGSU alumnus who also works for campus advising units, student success efforts and as a steward of the plus/minus grading proposal for the past two years.

The process of bringing the proposal to light started fall 2017 when a committee of past and present faculty members began to look at other institutions – specifically other Ohio schools – and their grading scales. After figuring out the structure of their proposal, they started to get feedback in the next year, causing revisions to the policy. During the 2018 academic year, the graduate and undergraduate councils passed the revised policy.

A plus/minus grading scale will determine a student’s grade based on whether they perform in the lower or higher level of their letter grade. 

“If you’re competing for graduate school and now you have a B+ instead of just a B, your GPA could be higher,” Alt said. “On the flipside of that, if you are earning a 91% which is an A, and (this) scale would make it an A-, it could also be detrimental to your grad school application.” 

Students in attendance had mixed reactions to the scale. Some remarked on the potential boosts they would get to their GPA, but others expressed concern of how a minus grade could affect their GPA. Alt explained it would be a motivator for them to do better in their classes.

If the grading scale is adopted at BGSU, it will allow but not require faculty and professors to exercise a better deal of discretion and precision in evaluating students’ academic performance. It could also align the school with other Ohio colleges and the MAC. 

The policy would affect every student enrolled in BGSU courses: graduates and undergraduates, guest students, Firelands, distance education students, those in eCampus and College Credit Plus. The change, should it be voted through by Faculty Senate and the president’s cabinet, will affect all students enrolled at the time the new scale is applied, though it won’t affect their past grades and points earned. 

As for faculty and instructors, they can still choose whether to assign plusses and minuses in the courses they teach, as it is not mandatory for them to use any particular grading scale. They aren’t required to give explicit grading scale expectations to students, but they should still clarify their assessment methods, Alt said.

As for satisfactory and unsatisfactory grading — otherwise known as pass/fail — there would be no changes to the courses eligible for that form under the proposed policy. 

During the forum, students asked questions about how it will affect other aspects, including students who consider themselves poor test takers.

After the Q&A, students were given an online survey on the forum, asking those in attendance if they had heard of the proposal beforehand, if they support the proposed plus/minus grading scale and to explain why their views are positive, negative or neutral of the proposal. 

“We’d like to try and send the link to the survey to everyone else on campus to get a bigger feedback,” USG Sen. Alexander Chiarelott said.


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