Raising the Bar: Grade Inflation in the Online Classroom

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Brief Abstract

In this session, faculty and administrators will be presented with ethical ramifications of grade inflation, social constraints, and possible courses of action based on an ethical decision-making framework. Session attendees will be presented key take-a-ways related to raising student academic expectations in the online classroom, provide faculty with tools and resources to augment student learning, provide detailed feedback to further understanding, and for administrators to hold faculty accountable.



Helen Hammond is a passionate Lifelong learner and enthusiastic encourager. She is committed to the development of others and enjoys seeing them realize their potential. She believes we are 'Better Together'. When she’s not loving 'Lope Life' on campus at GCU…she’s loving 'Arizona Life' on the 40 acres she and her husband have in Northwest Arizona and their adult sons frequently visit! Dr. Hammond is senior program manager and assistant professor in the Center for Innovation in Research on Teaching at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona. She teaches undergraduate business courses including management, organizational behavior, servant leadership, marketing, and leadership in organizations. Dr. Hammond holds a PhD in In Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Her Research interests include servant leadership, management, teaching and learning, and online teaching best practices.

Extended Abstract

We have all seen it when grading students’ papers. Papers submitted with a high similarity index indicating they copied or "borrowed” work. Whatever students wish to call it, it is wrong. As educators, we are entrusted to prepare students for the next phase of their lives, either in further educational pursuits or in a career.  Therefore, we bear the responsibility not only to our students but also to each other to set the bar high for academic accountability and integrity. This accountability, in part,  includes grading students’ work based on what they have earned and avoiding grade inflation.

Grade inflation serves not only to weaken academic integrity (Blum 2017), but also impacts earnings and involves re-ranking (Nordin, Heckley, & Gerdtham, 2019). In addition, those highly skilled individuals entering the labor market may potentially be harmed in the end (2019). Academic administrators can partner with faculty to develop policy, training, and best practices that are designed to diminish or even abolish the inflation of grades (Blum, 2017).

The purpose of this session is to examine the issue of grade inflation found in the literature, followed by recommendations for diminishing grade inflation through a multi-dimensional approach for faculty and administrators supporting faculty. This multi-dimensional approach includes setting expectations, engaging student discourse regarding the importance of learning as founded in ethical theory, and providing students the tools for learning as well as the instructional feedback required to support and encourage further learning.

Academic administrators can play a vital role in combatting grade inflation through guidance, consult, and advice gained through understanding the concepts and values associated with ethical decision-making. Faculty and administrators attending this session will have the opportunity to collaborate and brainstorm best practices instrumental in reducing grade inflation. Participants will walk away with the following: 1) a better understanding of how to raise student academic expectations 2) the tools to provide students with the best resources for learning enhancement 3) increased understanding of providing substantive feedback to aid student understanding and 4) the increased ability of administrators to hold faculty accountable to these higher academic standards.