Monday, April 19, 2010

Should Harvard's Intro CS Class Do Away with Grades

There's been discussions of late on the possibility of offering our intro CS class in two flavors -- a "graded" and "SAT/UNSAT" version.  (Same class, just two different grading options formalized into two course numbers.)

I was toying with whether or not to do a post about the issue when fortunately my colleague Matt Welsh wrote a comprehensive post on it at his blog Volatile and Decentralized and saved me the trouble.  So here's the post -- Should Harvard's Intro CS Class Do Away with Grades?


Serdar said...

Is it true that more than 50% of Harvard students typically get A's in undergraduate classes? Or is this an urban legend?

If so, there is no need for the new option.

Or perhaps, the whole first year should be PASS/FAIL, like at the small technical college down Mass Ave?

Shirish said...

Have you read Mackay's take on grades

serdar said...


No I haven't read MacKay's take on grades. Are you referring to David MacKay from Cambridge University?

Honestly, having read the discussion linked by Michael in Matt Welsh's blog I think the MIT system for 1st year grades works quite well. It is discussed there in more detail.

But the problem is that such a policy as MIT's (or similar)for first year grades should probably not be at school/program level but at university level to work well.

It also seems that the Harvard grade inflation phenomenon is not an urban legend, and has some truth to it. At the risk of showing my age, it wasn't like this as far as I know in the early 80's [I was at MIT but had contacts with Harvard students].