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Author Topic: How to grade MBA students  (Read 3931 times)
hopepage
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« on: April 27, 2012, 4:36:59 PM »

Dear Distinguished Forum Fellows, This is my first time teaching the MBAs, and I wonder how I should grade them. It seems that in both of my classes, I have a fairly decent group of students. The grade is based on presentation, paper, and participation, and it seems their presentations are mostly good, with some differentiation but not much. So any advice/experience? Is it OK to give most or all of them As, since they all seem to work pretty hard (meaning, would that be a problem for me)? Or I should try hard to differentiate between the fine details of their quality of work and try to assign different grades, which seems some times quite challenging. BTW, I'm just newly tenured.
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kshenko
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« Reply #1 on: April 27, 2012, 5:51:40 PM »

I have taught marketing research courses for MBA students at a couple of institutions, and all I can say is that it would heavily depend on the departmental culture.

At an average business school where most students were part-time, I was pretty much expected to give everyone an A or an A-minus for completing all exams, assignments and presentations--regardless of the quality.  In fact, a B-minus was equivalent to an F there.

At a selective business school with mostly full-time students, by contrast, unless the distribution was totally skewed, I was asked to grade on a normal distribution, so the average would be a B, one standard deviation above the mean would be an A, one below would be a C--with pluses and minuses in between.

So, you should find out from your colleagues in that specific department.
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hopepage
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« Reply #2 on: April 30, 2012, 10:35:41 AM »

Thanks, kshenko. That's a great suggestion. I will make sure to find out about the culture, so I know the guidelines.
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kohelet
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« Reply #3 on: April 30, 2012, 10:51:30 AM »

Yes, definitely ask senior colleagues.  My bet, though, is that they'll be reluctant to sound as if they're dictating how you should grade.  I teach in a closely related professional master's program, and it's very common for me to have a grade distribution of nearly half As, half Bs, and maybe one or two Cs.  These are, like yours, mostly decent-to-good students who take the program seriously.  And I'm a pretty tough grader--my undergraduate courses have the most normal grade distributions in our department.  If you're concerned about having reasonable differentiation between "good" and "decent," you could consider how you're weighting your assignments and the number of graded assignments.  I've encountered the problem (of sorts) of weighing something like online participation or presentations, which tend to have high grades across the board, too heavily.  Just this semester, I was concerned that a student who got 50% on the final exam still ended up with  a B in the course, right beside students whose work was consistently good (or good-minus) throughout the semester.  I'm going to fiddle around with the weights (again!) to have more meaningful grade letter differentiation next time around.
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kaysixteen
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« Reply #4 on: April 30, 2012, 4:07:44 PM »

If you are tenured and not even in the business school, who cares what the average grades given in that school are? Grade whatever way you think best.
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new_bus_prof
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« Reply #5 on: April 30, 2012, 9:55:38 PM »

It depends on your program...

My personal standard is to grade as tough as I can stand, so if I want to 'adjust' grades I can do so.

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octoprof
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« Reply #6 on: April 30, 2012, 10:04:00 PM »

The only things that matter are 1) the performance of the students, and 2) department/program culture.

At my old place, I taught MBAs frequently in an intro course and the grades were usually 50/50 A/B or better. I very rarely had a student earn a C.
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kaysixteen
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« Reply #7 on: May 01, 2012, 2:26:35 PM »

OK, but how much need a prof from another dept. care about the culture of Program X?
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octoprof
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« Reply #8 on: May 01, 2012, 2:43:36 PM »

OK, but how much need a prof from another dept. care about the culture of Program X?

It depends. If fitting in with the program he's teaching matters to him.. Or if his relationships with other faculty outside his department matters to him... If teaching in thisr pogram on an on-going basis matters to him...
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kaysixteen
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« Reply #9 on: May 01, 2012, 2:44:55 PM »

Good points-- so what exactly ought to be done if the culture of dept. x is significantly more academically lenient, shall we say, than dept. y's?
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octoprof
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« Reply #10 on: May 01, 2012, 2:57:09 PM »

Good points-- so what exactly ought to be done if the culture of dept. x is significantly more academically lenient, shall we say, than dept. y's?

It depends.

See my prior post.
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hopepage
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« Reply #11 on: May 07, 2012, 11:46:22 AM »

Actually we are an average business school where all students were part-time, so is it then everyone to expect to get everyone an A or an A-minus? I have tried to differentiate the students and yet I've got emails from 2 of students protesting that they got a A- and B+. They are all decent students, though.
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octoprof
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« Reply #12 on: May 07, 2012, 1:29:30 PM »

Actually we are an average business school where all students were part-time, so is it then everyone to expect to get everyone an A or an A-minus? I have tried to differentiate the students and yet I've got emails from 2 of students protesting that they got a A- and B+. They are all decent students, though.

Some students always protest. Ignore the whiners as long as you haven't made a math error in calculating their greads and you have followed your syllabus.

I've never given all As or all As/A-s to a graduate course, including MBAs.
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opsman
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« Reply #13 on: May 09, 2012, 5:05:52 PM »

Actually we are an average business school where all students were part-time, so is it then everyone to expect to get everyone an A or an A-minus? I have tried to differentiate the students and yet I've got emails from 2 of students protesting that they got a A- and B+. They are all decent students, though.

Some students always protest. Ignore the whiners as long as you haven't made a math error in calculating their greads and you have followed your syllabus.

I've never given all As or all As/A-s to a graduate course, including MBAs.

I've encountered this issue frequently, and have yet to find a solution that eliminates the whiners and grade grubbers. This is especially true at the MBA level where there is a fair amount of group work for credit, and it is difficult to determine the level of individual contribution. For example, I've had the experience of assigning multiple group projects in a semester only to find out later that the students split the effort among the group so that half worked on one project while the other half worked on the second one, thus totally defeating the purpose of the assignments.

The other issue is simply that students have come to believe they are entitled to superior grades. Some schools (e.g., Michigan, Wharton) have policies in place that require a forced distribution such as 1/3 A/A-, 1/3 B+, 1/3 B/B-, but using that approach only roasted me on course evaluations, especially when it came to the EMBA's where all of them are clearly exceptional, at least in their own minds.

So now I just publish a grading scale at the start of the semester to set up expectations, and I make sure that the average grade on all work falls in the B+ range on my scale (almost no one will argue that average is above B+). I try to limit group work to no more than 50% of the grade, and use the individual portion to discriminate between the A and B students. I only award grades of C or lower when a student has truly "earned" that grade. It's not perfect, but at least it has the benefit of taking the grading decision out of my hands and placing it squarely in the hands of the students.
« Last Edit: May 09, 2012, 5:09:52 PM by opsman » Logged

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