Bricks on the Brain

UM Law

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Alternative 2L & 3L Grading Systems

Anecdotaly, after 1L it seems that GPA's and class rankings change very little, at least at UM Law. Sure, there are probably a few students that make big gains and losses, but for the most part not much changes.

If this is true, then the current exam-style grading of 2Ls and 3Ls is by all appearances quite wasteful. The stress and annoyance to the students is obvious. But even professors probably could use grading time more productively elsewhere. So why do we bother?

One solution might be to make grades optional for 2Ls and/or 3Ls. As I understand it, presently we get to elect pass/fail for at most 2 courses, and the majority of students don't use them. Why not invert the system, i.e. grades must be opted into. Such a system could be supplemented by requiring one graded writing assignment per semester.

The goal would be this: students are basically surveying legal areas, but focusing on one legal topic per semester to write on in-depth. I dare say many employers would rather judge a law student by her work on 4 intensive legal writings capable of review. What do they get now? The opinions of 16 batty law professors who spent 15-20 minutes deciphering chicken scratch in a blue book or two? Profs could basically skim all the pass-fail exams, grade the few that elect grades, then focus on a certain number of papers per semester.

The above is just a rough thumbnail sketch of what an alternative grading system could look like...but it seems most UM students and profs would agree that the current system is outdated and broken.


  • At 6:03 PM, Blogger some guy said…

    While you're revolutionizing the system, why don't you get rid of the third year? There is no reason this has to be dragged out for three years...

  • At 8:42 AM, Blogger Aaron C. said…

    In the same, yet different vein, a friend of mine in the school has the idea (which he is trying to pursue. His idea is that if the registrar has time to compile the grade distribution and give them to the library, they should go a step further and give a sheet on the punctuality of professors turning in their grades. This would inlude when the Prof's test was, when their grades were turned in, and what type of test it was. This would show students which prof drags his feet to the last possible minute and also shows students the ones who took so long simply turning in a scantron sheet. Not so much an information tool, but a gentle prodding to prof's so they know their time will be available for all to see.


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