« Why Harper is Not Going to Halifax | Main | Elasticity, slope, scale, and collusion »

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

A quick note on the survey: many people have studied both economics AND a STEM field - in fact this is getting increasingly common among recent graduate economics students.

Hmmm. I almost changed my answer about which sex was more likely to ask for a better grade, to say that women were more likely. Maybe that is because I am from the Deep South in the US. Southern men are too proud to ask. Southern women know how to get their way. :)

I ticked "females more likely", but that is based on a slight difference in the small sample I can remember recently. I nearly ticked "no difference" or "don't know".

I only once (sort of) complained about my grade. In MA micro I had given a "clever dick" answer to one question, and wanted to argue when the prof marked it wrong. The prof wisely told me not to write clever dick answers on exams, and left the grade as it was.

primedprimate - sorry, I couldn't figure out how to allow multiple responses.

Min, Nick - it's really hard to say, isn't it? Carleton U is going to be collecting formal data on appeals soon, but I don't think that people pursuing formal avenues of appeal are necessarily representative of the people asking for a 1, 2 or 5% mark adjustment. Still, it will be interesting to find out.

We now have over 70 responses, but the basic patterns haven't changed.

Wasn't the claim that whether women negotiate depends on the appearance of a clear norm?

So if the employer says once a year we will haggle over salary, women would haggle just as much.

Is it possible the norm is to haggle?

For my part, I only fought a few times in all the years through ug and grad and usually only at the end when final grades were computed and I ended just below the next step. Then and only then would I fight over some aspect of the final. I only recall doing this a few times but not more. Actually I viewed it as a matter of reputation. Sure you can go to the mat with your professor but if you do that with all of your professors, who is going to write that recommendation or put in contact with that next job?

Everyone knows ithat grading errors go both ways, so there is no real moral ground to the struggle.

Jon: "who is going to write that recommendation or put in contact with that next job?"

This hints at something that is very often lacking from the discussion of why boys don't do better in school: any consideration of the costs v. the benefits of getting good grades.

Years ago, someone once gave me the following advice about studying for the chartered accountants' uniform final exam: "there are only two grades worth getting, the top grade, and a bare pass. Anything between those two you've put in more work than you needed to."

Perhaps if guys are getting C-s rather than B-s in university it's because they realize: hey, neither a c- nor a b- is good enough for grad school, and the two grades are equally useful on the job market, so why put in the extra effort?

If women are more likely to negotiate when there is a clear norm, this might be one reason why we don't find a gender gap in negotiations in this area: the existence of an answer key with a "right" or "wrong" answer might create an expectation "as long as my answer matches the one in the answer key I should get 100%".

Some thought: women now get better grades in more prestigious fields. Is it related to less ambiguous grading systems, such as multiple choices (and an mp test can be very sophisticated if properly designed), such system leaving less space for haggling?

Interesting problem. I'd be surprised if there was any gender differences these days. I think there needs to be a bit of a Bayesian context around it:

- A prof has some probability of grading wrongly. But the probability of grading only a small percentage wrongly must be small, since a bad grader would grade many papers wrong.
- For any prof with a non-zero chance of erroneous grading, a certain (equal?) proportion of students will look at the grade and be surprised at how well they did. Of course, we don't observe these, partly because they will take credit for it rather than see it as error, and partly because sending your prof champagne isn't too common.
- The student's experience of being graded is vastly smaller than the prof's experience of grading, and thus the student has much poorer judgment of the grade's accuracy, and has a high likelihood of making an erroneous (i.e., baseless) appeal
- The probability that a student will appeal a grade is probably distributed unevenly across the grade band (this is just a guess): there will be more appealing of Bs to becomes As, and of Ds to become Cs, than there will be of Cs to become Bs.

I said Bayesian, but of course I'm not bothering to do the math.

Berkeley has this interesting bit of info for students, informing them that there are three reasons for which you can appeal:
1. Your prof is a hate-filled white supremacist
2. Your prof is a pasty old goat, whom you spurned
3. Other reasons.

>50% of respondents have never asked for a mark to be reconsidered?

....I'm speechless.

What's wrong with y'all? Can`t you figure out when the prof/TA screwed up?

Shangwen (and any profs reading): one thing I've learned recently is that life is quieter if one avoids giving marks in the A- range. The A- students are the least happy with their grades. I guess it's like the people who get silver at the Olympics. The gold gets the glory, the bronze winner is just happy to have made it onto the podium, but the silver is always saying "why didn't I just do that little bit extra so that I can win?" So an appeal-reducing strategy is to give out only As and B+s.

This fits somewhat with your observations, I think, but not totally.

Thanks for that link, that's interesting.

Jacques Rene - "Is it related to less ambiguous grading systems, such as multiple choices"

IIRC, women actually tend to do worse relative to men on multiple choice exams - more averse to guessing, less likely to guess strategically (eliminate the two obviously wrong answers, flip a coin to decide which of the two likely ones to pick, and then move on).

Simon - excellent!

"What's wrong with y'all? Can`t you figure out when the prof/TA screwed up?"

Sure. But pointing out that they screwed up is not the same as asking them to change the grade. Why stoop so low? ;)

Frances; I haven't observed that behavior. I'll try to watch more closely the students taking their second intra exam in front of me at this very moment.
At least one, but to date, only one, wondered and asked me if I realized that I had asked what is essentially the same question twice, and two times at that. I told him (it was a him FWIW), that yes I knew and there was a reason. ( I want to confirm that they have really learned an important concept and also to check if they answer randomly).

Just some observations. Fact one - I studied engineering and one was considered lucky to see any female at school (profs don't count) let alone having one in a classroom. That 90% of readers of this portal are males confirms that this experience probably was not unique.

Fact two: I can clearly remember two occasions when I disputed grades - one was obvious (the sum of the points did not match), and another one our prof made a mistake when giving us a task that resulted in the problem being much harder to solve than it should be. This totally messed up with people who paid disproportional time solving that issue - like me. I know that I protested this and there was some sort of solution for it. I may have argued some other grades, but only very rarely.

Now combine these two facts and it is no surprise that I said "don't know". Rare females and rare occasions of anybody arguing grades equals too little observations to come to any meaningful conclusion.

I'm speculating, but my thoughts are this:

The cost to males of asking for grade/salary adjustments is a lot lower than it is for females. Why? Males will get called suck-ups, brown-nosers, and teacher's pets. As bad as that might be, it's nothing compared to what they call the females who do it.

But like I say, that's just speculation on my part.

I think Ryan is onto something. I know that when it came to salary negotiations in Corporate Canada the price of questioning your salary was much, much higher for women that for men. At the time I speculated that part of the extreme adverse reaction was due to the very high cost that adopting pay equity would entail. Bringing women into line with men would bankrupt some companies and that is a scary thought for a business owner.

I think there's also been some research indicating that the female negotiation avoidance is a fair response to incentives - women who negotiate tend to be viewed in a negative light, while men who exhibit the same behaviour don't experience any downside.

That said, since appealing grades is generally considered socially acceptable (unlike, say, asking for more money), I'd expect to see a lower effect than in the working world.

I, too, wasn't too sure how to fill out the survey. I have studied a STEM discipline, but did not complete it (I marked it as studied). I will, finally, get a university degree sometime around 2015, but it was unclear whether I should mark this as an after 2010 graduation, or "no university" (I marked after 2010).

I'm with Simon. I frequently challenged my grade and I expect my students to do the same if there is a marking discrepancy, or simply if they are interested. I never took the formal appeal route, but I would have discussions like "This is graded 5 / 25, but there is no clear reason it shouldn't be a 10 or 15, so could you explain why 5?" Those situations annoyed me as a student, so I try to not grade like that (marking schemes save me). Often the exams were out of 100, so 5% is worth, at least, having a chat about. Especially when a careful re-reading by someone else could have meant the difference between a B and an A for me.

Ryan, excellent point. I agree with you about the higher cost to women of appearing aggressive, e.g. pushing for a higher salary. On the other hand, since asking a professor about a grade is, as Simon points out, often a matter of saying "the TA forgot to mark this", I'm not sure if there's quite a large social penalty to negotiating in this context.

Dan - this raises a general point about the best way to ask for a grade adjustment. "Could you please go over the exam with me and explain where I went wrong" is (sometimes) a good strategy - though you risk the professor figuring you're really begging for a higher grade, and laying into you about EVERYTHING that you did wrong.

If you get a lot of requests you need to preempt them in your syllabus by pointing out that:
-students should point out things that were missed if they want regrading
-students risk having their grade decrease if a regrade discovers additional problems

From my experience, teaching in a non-econ social science in the US, I've never had a female ask for a regrade, while I've had a few guys do the same (and female students are otherwise more likely to come to my office hours).

hosertohoosier: could it be that your female students get it right the first time? My female students come more often and send more email. They also get better grades because they study more. Male tend to wing it and try their luck in a regrade...

"another one our prof made a mistake when giving us a task that resulted in the problem being much harder to solve than it should be. This totally messed up with people who paid disproportional time solving that issue - like me. I know that I protested this and there was some sort of solution for it."

Imagine for a moment an infinite time exam. You can use any book, all the course materials. You cannot consult anyone except the professor. The exam has three questions. You do the first proof in ninety minutes. The second takes half a day. The third problem is hard. You put it aside. This is finals week you have other things to do. You work on it on and off for a while. You eventually go to the professor and ask: "Are you sure this is the question you meant to ask? It's very difficult." Professor replies, "yes no one has proved that bound yet. It's an open research topic; I wanted to see what ideas you guys would come up with."

I taught for a couple of years at a university in Japan. Not a single student every asked for a higher grade. However, I did have one male student come and ask me to reduce the penalty I imposed on his late submission of an assignment. He brought along a male friend for backup! Maybe I was just scary.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Search this site

  • Google

    WWW
    worthwhile.typepad.com
Blog powered by Typepad