Tuesday, March 21, 2017
What Do D’s Mean?
1) You learned _something_, so we won't fail you.
2) You shouldn't go any farther in this particular track of the major. Focus on something else.
3) If you balance out this poor performance with a good grade in something else (e.g. get a B in another class so your average is a C) then it's all good, but if you keep performing just at or below the margin you'll be in trouble (i.e. if you only get C's to average with that D you'll still be below a 2.0).
It means that they have earned credit toward graduation, but not very much. In principle, it means there was more than 30% of the course content that they don't understand at all but they can deal with the easiest 60% of the material. In some classes, it is a "gentleman's" grade indicating the person completed the course by taking the final exam. In my classes, it means the student has a fair chance of passing the class if they take it seriously when repeating it.
PS - Maybe I mentioned it a decade ago, but if not: I attended a university that had a D minus grade. That sends an even more futile signal than what is sent by a C minus or D. I think it meant "showed up at the final exam".
In the major's course, a D (or C- for that matter) means that you haven't mastered enough information to continue on in the sequence. But every semester, we tend to get a few students in their last semester who just needed any lab science course to graduate and registered for majors bio because either the non-majors class was full or because it was the only one that fit conveniently in that student's schedule. The D means that student graduates, but an F means they need to stay another semester for just one class.
Of anecdotal interest, the D grades I've given seem to generate the most complaints. In fact, several times I've had former D students come back and beg me to change their grades so that they can raise their GPA to a 2.0.
So what is a C- for? Is it just a D with another name?
Once upon a time, I taught in a dual enrollment program. There, the consequences for a D were much worse.
Because most of these HS students were only taking one college class, getting a D meant that there cumulative GPA was now a 1.0 (since there college GPA was based on one grade). Those students walked into college already on the academic probation list.
A course graded C-, D+, D, D-, or F cannot be used to satisfy a course prerequisite or to satisfy major or general education requirements. Any course graded P is equivalent to a C or better and can be used to satisfy general education requirements.
The main purpose of C- and D is to not hit the GPA quite as hard as an F does. For most other purposes, it is equivalent to an F. When you have a lot of students failing, you want to distinguish between degrees of failure, so that students know whether they were close and should try again, or should start looking for a different approach to their education.
Based just on policy, we have to assume it is a passing grade because students are not permitted to repeat a C- at the neighboring university that gives that grade. You get to repeat any failing grade.
Interesting that the pointless spammers are slipping in at the end of the thread.
And I don't have a final answer. I don't think anyone does. It's striking to me how many companies have attempted to measure the performance of their incoming recruits and found that grades mean very little. Which should make us ask, again, what grades mean.
Where I teach (high school) all prerequisites are defined as passing the prerequisite class. So to get into Algebra 2 you need to pass Algebra 1. Which means that 50% (or in practice anything over 45%, as the administration insists that marks be rounded up) is enough to get you to the next level. Throw in Credit Recovery (which is where any student with 35% or more is assigned to a SpecEd teacher who supposedly* helps them earn the credit), and a student can pass a class while learning less than a third of the material.
So in this context, I really like the idea of a grade that ways "you get the credit, but you can't go on without repeating the course and actually learning something".
*Supposedly because they usually come to subject teacher wanting "an assignment" the student can complete to be granted the credit (which the subject teacher will be expected to mark. Or, in one case I saw, the SpecEd teacher gave the student a test one question at a time, teaching them how to do each specific question just before administering it.