Three Interesting Things we Found but You Won’t Hear at Trial

Members of our Science Team spent the entire semester finding information that will ultimately help either (or both) the refine and reform legal teams construct their arguments at trial tomorrow. However, such an extensive exploration from numerous sources inevitably led to almost all members of the Science Team finding information that while extremely interesting, did not fit into their presentations. Here are some of these interesting facts that you won’t hear at the trial tomorrow. 


There is Conflicting Evidence About the Roles of Grades in Students’ Lives After School

Members of the economics subteam within the Science Team explored the importance of grades in helping students with their future career aspirations. In particular, they found that while many employers ask for transcripts to be submitted with applications, there are many prominent companies that do not value students grades. For example, Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of people operations at Google holds the opinion that, “G.P.A.s are worthless as a criteria for hiring.” At the same time, the psychology and sociology subteam found that grades are a better predictor of “life success” (career advancement being one part of this) than other measures of student abilities, such as IQ.


A Lot of Research has been Conducted on Grading and Student Motivation

If you think back to when you were in school, you probably remember facing the conundrum of “Am I taking this class to learn the material or to earn a grade?” One study found by members of the education domain reported that students will often make this choice early in their academic careers and remain fixated on their choice; once a student decides that they are taking a class solely to earn a grade, their motivation to study for the purpose of learning the material decreases. 


Another key motivator behind grading is social praise, as found by the psychology and sociology subteam. Grades are a metric for comparing students, so they inevitably lead to competition. One manifestation of competition for grades is seen in curved classes, where only a certain number of students earn a particular grade. Such a grading system is common in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) courses, and competition for grades has subsequently been observed to be a cause for college students withdrawing from STEM majors. Additionally, competition for grades has been shown to lead to more procrastination, reduced  motivation for learning, and increases in academic dishonesty.


Pressure to Earn Grades is Associated with Increased Academic Dishonesty

One the first concerns with grading that Science Court considered was cheating; it seems obvious that students would be more likely to cheat if there is a reward – better grades. Many subteams found several sources that support this idea. The education subteam found studies that not only confirmed the notion that grades increase the likelihood of cheating, but also identified predictors in grading systems that would be more likely to encourage cheating. The equity and ethics however found that the likelihood that a student will engage in academic dishonesty is reduced if they spend more one-on-one time with instructors, as they would be more likely to develop a sense of trust. Similarly, the equity and ethics team also found that when instructors explicitly state their expectations of students, often via one-on-one interactions, they are more likely to achieve those expectations. For example, if a professor says that they expect sophomores to perform better than freshmen on an exam, the sophomore exam scores are likely to be higher. While somewhat benign in this case, such a dynamic can be much more severe if instructors show favoritism via implicit bias towards certain groups of students based on race, gender, etc.