Curve Breakers: Professor Gives As To Entire Class for Not Taking Exam

peter-baltimore-2011-tnProfessor Peter Frölich at Johns Hopkins University has always had an idiosyncratic grading curve. he would take the highest grade of his class and designate it as an A and then adjust every lower grade accordingly. Thus, if the highest score is 60 out of 100, 60 points is treated as 100 percent. It is an elegant curve until students discovered a sure fire why of guaranteeing perfect scores for everyone — they simply declined to answer any question making the top score 0. Notably, the professor (shown here) includes gaming as his academic focus.

The conspiracy of curve breakers was hatched in Frölich’s “Intermediate Programming”, “Computer Science Fundamentals,” and “Introduction to Programming for Scientists and Engineers. The key was to guarantee that no one gamed them as they gamed the system by at the last minute answering one question correctly. To keep everyone honest, they all stood guards on everyone else outside of the class.

The professor decided to reward the students for successfully rigging his system. However, he has changed his policy to expressly state that if “everybody has 0 points means that everybody gets 0 percent.”

Source: Inside Higher Education

25 thoughts on “Curve Breakers: Professor Gives As To Entire Class for Not Taking Exam

  1. This seems to me to be a fascinating example of the two schools of arguments that are regularly played out in this blawgs comments regarding the role of education and teachers: A: teach to the test or B: for other, equally important attributes not readily measured on standardized tests.

    The professor appears to me to be a B style teacher and his students excelled at the shadow curriculum. I’m with Waldo regarding the result. Now the teacher is going to have to come up with a new series of learning hoops for his students to jump through and that will make him a better teacher, if he views his mission as getting his students from Level 1 to Level X in the game of education/problem solving/life. If he’s really a gamer (as his bio/web page indicates) he’s going to have some interesting classes in the future.

  2. Scott – “If the highest mark in your class is 60%, there’s either something wrong with your test or something wrong with your teaching.”

    Did you never attend college? Or never encounter a course that was obscure and incomprehensible to smart students? Or do you just like making assumptions based on no information?

    In my college (business program) nearly all the 200+ students in the program had GPAs over 3, myself included. But one particular course on information systems drove a class of thirty over the edge, the best mark being a C and most getting bare passes. I’m sure other people can tell of similar cases.

    • “In my college (business program) nearly all the 200+ students in the program had GPAs over 3, myself included. But one particular course on information systems drove a class of thirty over the edge, the best mark being a C and most getting bare passes. I’m sure other people can tell of similar cases.”

      P. Smith,

      When I was in Grad school working for my Masters in Social Work, Social Work Statistics was a required course. My GPA was also very high, but the highest grade on the final test was a 37, which got an “A”. My grade of 31 got me a B+.

  3. A followup on BoingBoing on the game being played (the Stag Hunt) and within it a link “Right On Queue” that explains the implications of that particular game in the real world, using a recent example. It reinforces my appreciation for the students actions as well as being an entertaining and enlightening read.

    ” Stag Hunts: fascinating and useful game theory model for collective action problems”

    http://boingboing.net/2013/02/20/stag-hunts-fascinating-and-us.html

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