Unfortunately students can be quite focused on their grades, and as a result I end up paying more attention to grading than I would like. By the way let me point out that 'grading' is more than assigning a grade to a bit of homework. Without going into detail, you have to decide and communicate:
- What all the gradable items of work are (e.g. a programming assignment, a reading assignment, a test, a presentation, a mockup or prototype, etc. etc.)
- Your logical scheme for assigning a grade to a work item. That is, what is an "A" for a programming assignment? For a particular presentation, etc.)
- What the relative weighting is of each grade is
- What formula you use to convert all the individual work item grades to a final grade
And then when you are teaching you have to stick to what you decided and communicated because you can be sure someone will ask for an explanation.
I just had a converation about this today with some students. So in this mindset I was amused / intereste to read this article:
“The median grade in Harvard College is indeed an A-,” the school’s dean of education said today, according to the student newspaper. Even more stunning: “The most frequently awarded grade in Harvard College is actually a straight A.”
Now. Harvard will probably say, and maybe reasonably, that it's so hard to get into Harvard that all the students deserve the grades they get because that's just how good they are!