Friday, September 23, 2005

Grade Non-Disclosure

Simple title for a post on what is really a very complex issue. The student body at Chicago GSB hasn't yet started to discuss this issue and vote on it, but it seems to be a hot-button topic at Wharton, as indicated by posts from Linda and JP, among others, in response to the article that started it all on BW.

Chicago is one of the four 'top' schools that has this student-initiated policy in place. Reading the various sides of the issue, I can appreciate the concerns of the various parties involved. Especially, the professors at Wharton who seem to be observing "lackluster academic performance and student disengagement".

The BW article doesn't quote any Chicago professors, and I haven't heard their opinions on the issue, but anecdotal evidence suggest (to me, at least) that they mayn't be so critical of the policy. That's what I think. I wrote about Prof. Rayo's approach to his class, which I think is pretty cool. Also, I was talking with Prof. Meadow who advised me to approach his class with the intent to learn as much as I can over getting caught up in trying to get an A. Sage advice. I have heard the argument that grades are meant to reflect how much you've learnt in a class. I think that's not entirely true. An 'A' means that you know how to concentrate on what's required to get an 'A'.

The biggest argument in favor of grade disclosure seems to be the recruiter angle. You know, I don't know about that one. There are MANY classmates of mine who are taking advanced level classes first quarter to prepare them for their chosen career internships. If grades by themselves were a factor, I suspect many more of us would just stick to the foundation courses to better our chances of meeting the GPA cut-off for an interview list. I also suspect this is unique to Chicago because we don't have a first-year Core. I've been told that a student's choice of classes is, in itself, a strong indicator of motivation when it comes to recruiting. Please don't read this as laziness - take some cool-sounding classes, coast through them, and get jobs over the A-ers. Classes here at Chicago are tough. I should actually not be blogging right now - i have a problem set to solve PRIOR to my FIRST accounting class that has people asking questions like: How would one treat an unsettled law suit amount (payable by my firm at the time of preparing the balance sheet)? Would I treat it as a current liability? And this is a basic accounting class. God help me if I decide to walk into an advanced class just for the heck of it.

Linda makes the statement "Accountability is a great motivator. It is absent at the schools with the non-disclosure policy." This I don't understand. Just because I don't have to tell my recruiter a grade makes me somehow unaccountable? [wrong grammar?] I think we are as accountable to our classmates as to our professors. And, in an intensely competitive environment, if a policy such as GND can facilitate greater co-operation, I am all for it.

Finally, she also asks: "Do Wharton, HBS, Stanford, and Chicago have cooperation and collegiality, or laziness?"

A few hours ago, I was in a kick-off meeting with the film chairs of all our cohorts. This is a competition where each cohort comes up with a 6-minute film that is then shown to the school and awards handed out a ceremony called Golden Gargoyles. Now, a bunch of us have never done film, but one of the cohort chairs has something like 7 years of experience in the film industry ! I didn't even know what the questions she were asking meant :-) Towards the end of the meeting, she gave us tips on what she thought was a great short film to watch to see how it's done, and offered to sit down sometime next week and give us all some of the incredible knowledge she has regarding how to approach this thing!

Now, I think that she didn't really have to. The rest of us could have stumbled throught the process while she went off and made a great movie. She still will kick our collective ass come awards night, but I for one would be the better for what I learn from her.

Co-operation? Collegiality? Laziness?
You decide.


Blogger PowerYogi said...

Another great post. Apt observation on accountability.
mbafarbe | Homepage | 09.24.05 - 4:53 am | #


Good post, PY. Ultimately, I guess it all boils down to individual priorities. No amount of pressure from the system can inculcate "accountability" and there's no use of it is forced. It is upto the school to create the appropriate learning environment to counter the "lackluster academic performance and student disengagement" that authorities bemoan.

To hope that eliminating GND will automatically make the environment more "academically conducive" is myopic. I think there are a lot many factors at play here. In my opinion, equal onus is on the faculty to make academics an important aspect of life at business schools. After all, the academic experience is one of the reasons some people go to business schools.
Mave | Homepage | 09.24.05 - 2:18 pm | #


Great post, as always. I don't think GND has a seriously negative effect on academics at HBS for two reasons: Attendance is required and you have to talk. People prepare at least a base amount to be able to speak intelligently in class, and they have to do it because attendance is required and thus they have to speak eventually.

Of course, Baker Scholars and First Year Honors are a surrogate for disclosure, but I don't think recruiters take those awards incredibly seriously. In fact, they may look at a Baker Scholar as someone who didn't get everything they could have out of b-school.

Or, they may think it's the bomb, what do I know?
Mark | Homepage | 09.24.05 - 5:07 pm | #

19 November, 2005 03:06  

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