# Legal Skills Prof Blog

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Sunday, December 5, 2010

### The pros and cons of letter versus number grades

Here's an interesting post from the ever-popular blogger ProfHacker courtesy of the Chronicle of Higher Ed:

• I suspect students expect letter grades for the kinds of assignments and exams I give (primarily essay, in both cases).
• Students know immediately how to interpret the grades.

• It’s not always easy to know how to mark an assignment that’s borderline between two grades, or how to record it. (How do you easily enter an A-/B+ into a spreadsheet, if that’s how you keep your gradebook?)
• If you expect students to keep track of their own progress through the semester, letter grades can make that task difficult. They’ll have to do the conversion to the four-point scale, set up the calculation, etc.

Using Numbers

• Record keeping is easier (numbers work a lot better than letters in a spreadsheet formula).
• It’s easier for students to keep track of their own grades and progress than it sometimes is with letters.
• There’s a bit more fine-tuning possible with assigning and recording borderline grades. Not sure if a paper is a B+ or an A-? Admittedly, there’s still a difference between an 89 and a 90, but using numerical grades makes that difference smaller than the four-point scale would. For that matter, a spreadsheet will understand 89.5 just fine, so A-/B+ can be an actual grade.

• I sometimes feel as though I’m quantifying things that really aren’t quantifiable.
• Students aren’t always accustomed to thinking of grades in numerical terms.
• If students do start thinking in terms of “A 92 is an A-, but a 93 is an A,” they may be more likely to argue about the grade (instead of realizing that, over the course of the semester, there’s precious little difference between a 92 and a 93 on one assignment).

You can read the rest here.

(jbl).