General Question

weeveeship's avatar

Is it easier to get a good grade in a class with more or less people (see details)?

Asked by weeveeship (4610points) October 6th, 2010

Let’s say that a school offers two sections of the same class. One section has 60 students. The other has 90 students. To simplify this, we will consider that the quality of education is the same for both (so we are not debating whether we want bigger or smaller classes here).

The school has a mandatory curve as follows: 20% will get an A, 30% will get a B, 50% will get C or below.

Which class is it easier to get an A in, the bigger one or the smaller one, taking into consideration the curve? I assume that I do not know how I stack up against my classmates.

Argument for the bigger class
.2*90=18
.2*60=12
More people get an A in the big class.

Argument for the smaller class
.8*90=72
.8*60=48
Fewer people get something other than an A in the small class.

Argument for they’re the same
The same proportion of students get an A in either class (20%).

I think this makes the most sense but there is a big issue:
Competition
Let’s say that there are 15 smart people in the class. The rest are mediocre. All 15 would presumably get As in the big class while only 12 of the 15 would get As in the small class. Doesn’t it seem like then, that the big class is better?

On the flip side, lets say you got 50 mediocre people in the class. In the big class, all 50 would get something other than an A. In the small class, though, only 48 would get something other than an A. The remaining two would, through luck or hard work or both, get an A. Wouldn’t then, the smaller class be better?

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5 Answers

CyanoticWasp's avatar

The class that meets in the morning, assuming you get a good night’s sleep each night before class, do the assigned work, and make all of the classes.

weeveeship's avatar

@CyanoticWasp I assume that both sections are the same in terms of educational quality, which could include time. To clarify: Only the student distributions and the curves are relevant here.

bigjay's avatar

hi. i think you have done a good job analysing all the different situations and how they are beneficial/detrimental. as we can see, each scenario specifically helps or belittles a group of people. this just shows that such a grading system is inherently biased, as it provides advantages/disadvantages that are unfair either way. i think the conclusion that can be drawn from this data is that a classic grade system which awards grades based on marks received, instead of a cutoffsystem is best as it is indifferent to number of students – so noone loses out or wins from the state of their class.

iphigeneia's avatar

Mandatory grading curves like that are stupid. But I know that that’s not the question. I think that being in a smaller class means that your work has a higher chance of standing out.

edited for clarity: I suppose this again is not quite a correct answer, but a teacher with fewer papers can give more thought to the marks he or she is giving.

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