Monday 1 May 2017

3 Different Ways of Dealing with a Curve

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Grading on a curve can be a blessing and a curse at the same time. I've found that most teachers do one of three things when faced with using a curve.

1. They max out the curve
If you take a TEFL course you will find out that many of us are teaching required courses. Even if it's not required, I highly recommend you take a course even if you've been teaching for years; there's always something new you can learn. Some popular online courses are the CCELT (100 hours) and the University of Toronto (100, 120, and 150 hours). Due to this, many of the students don't care as much about these classes as they would about classes in their major. Although English is important, a basic course probably isn't going to make or break their career, so why fight it? If the curve allows for 30% A's, then they'll give 30%, no matter how low the scores are.

There are a couple of exceptions to this, one is when teachers save a couple A's just in case there are mistakes. If they have students with identical scores, they might bump them both down to B's, though some teachers will take a look at how much they improved or their effort and give one an A and one a B. I personally find that difficult to do. Some students are naturally better than others and will score higher with little effort. So what do you do in that case? Reward the student who has slightly better English or reward the student who tried the hardest? Either way, these teachers will do their best to max out the curve.

2. They use cut-off scores
Commonly referred to as a cut-line in Korea, these teachers ignore the curve. The purpose of the curve is to put a cap on how many grades you can give. They don't state that there has to be a minimum number of A's. Therefore, these teachers might use a straight 90-80-70-60 cut-off, or make up their own. If the highest score in the class is a 79, then no one gets an A or a B. The highest score will be a C. Of course, this might set you up for a bunch of student complaints, but I've found that most teachers who do this don't care about complaints and are very firm with grading. They believe that students get what they deserve.

3. They look for a natural separation
This method kind of combines the first two methods. The teacher isn't going to max out the scores nor are they going to use per-determined cut-off scores. They're going to look for bunches. Let's say you're allowed to give a max of 30% A's and the top 23% of your students have scores in the 90s and then there's a huge drop from there and the next score is an 84. Teachers who use this method are going to use the drop as a cut-off score since that's where the divide naturally falls. Of course, even with this method, you're going to get students who complain, however, there will always be students who complain, even when you max out the curve.


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