Memorial changes grading system
Students have returned to classes to find a new grading scheme in effect at Memorial.
Memorial has been one of the last universities in North America to run on a 3-point grade point system, as other universities measure their students using a 4-point gradation. To bring Memorial in line, Senate passed a number of recommendations made by a special committee appointed to examine grading at Memorial and around the continent.
"Several years ago the vice-president (academic) struck a committee to look at grading practices and all of these recommendations were under the mandate of that committee," Donna Walsh, chair of the Senate committee on undergraduate studies, and Sheila Singleton, a member of the special committee, told the Gazette. "There was unanimous, strong feeling on our committee that because the 4-grade point system is the most standardized model we have in North America, it would make sense for comparative purposes for us to use it. It makes students' achievement more comparable across institutions."
Two of the changes have been made retroactive to 1980, the year the Registrar's Office became computerized. "From 1980 to the present, we did a conversion and redefined the relationship between points and letter grades," said Ms. Singleton. "Any transcript issued as of Wednesday (the first day of classes) actually had a 4 point grade-point average (GPA) calculated on it.
"The other change that's been made retroactive to 1980 is the manner in which we select courses to include in the cumulative average and cumulative GPA. "Senate approved the model that when courses are repeated, we will include only your best attempt in your cumulative GPA. In the past, if a course was failed, and then subsequently passed, both your passes and fails were kept in the GPA."
Students will also find a more precise representation of their course achievement on their transcripts. "At the end of this semester grades will be submitted in integers rather than to the nearest five," Ms. Singleton said. This means that, whereas under the previous system a student attaining an average of 72 would likely have been rounded down to 70, now their transcript will show exactly that 72. "That seems to be generally very popular."
Finally, the piece of paper students receive at the end of their university trek will now look a bit different. "Senate has asked to make the change, on a go forward basis ... that when a student is awarded an undergraduate degree, their degree GPA will be included on the transcript," Ms. Singleton pointed out. The reason for this is to show the varying degrees of accomplishment represented in the attainment of a degree. As she went on to explain, "Memorial has always classed (most of) its degrees first, second, and third class ... for instance, you have to have a minimum 2.75 GPA for a second-class degree and 3.5 for a first-class. Someone could be 3.45 or 2.75, but they are both getting a second-class degree, so this change will allow some differentiation."
Not all of the committee's recommendations have been approved, however, with one important alteration still up for further discussion and debate at Senate. "The one change that is outstanding is the relationship between letter grades and number grades," Ms. Singleton said. "The question that is really being asked is that ... if I am an instructor and I think in terms of awarding of numeric grades, and you did a course for me last semester and that was a 65, under the new scheme if you do exactly the same (quality of) work, will you still get a 65? Because if you will, your grade has dropped from a B to a C." This is because, as she explained, the old system considered a mark of 65 a B, but under the new scheme that will fall to a C. For departments that primarily base their marking on the giving of number grades, this is a source of some concern. This issue will be resolved at a future meeting of Senate; any decision to change the relationship between numeric and letter grades will be on a go forward basis.