Our View: Pass/fail grading encourages well-rounded education

We’ve all had a class that has seemed so obviously not important to your major, but somehow has affected your GPA the most. Berry being a liberal arts college, our “foundational” courses are built into our needed credit hours and are non-negotiable in order to graduate. Through this course system, however, we are able to take classes outside of our major, often for the needed course hours, but also out of sheer interest. Due to these extra courses being electives, it’s a risky endeavor to sign up for a class outside of your major and risk harming your GPA over a class you decided to take for fun.

A five-letter grading system is arbitrary and subjective depending on each professor. Every professor gets to decided what range is equivalent to a letter grade and what counts as an “A” in one class may very well be a “B” in another. This type of discrepancy in grading makes it impossible to tell the actuality of your competency in a class. We’ve been assigned letter grades as early as kindergarten and we all know the frustration of having a simple letter determine your academic merit and worth.

Berry administration is considering a pass/fail system of grading for Berry classes. As of now, discussion of the change is centered around the idea of a change in the grading scale for free elective courses. The hope is that taking an elective with a pass/fail grading system would encourage students to take classes outside of their major and truly take advantage of Berry’s liberal arts curriculum. A main concern for the logistics of the change would be the specific requirements of some majors and courses which require traditional numerical grades.

For students specifically, there are more things to consider when taking a pass/fail course. There is question as to whether having a pass/fail grading system would rid Berry students of a competitive edge. For students considering graduate school after they leave Berry, having a satisfactory grade in one class might pale in comparison to a student who received a traditional “A.” However, for students who might struggle in basic foundational classes, the pass/fail grading system would work in their favor.

Pass/fail courses would be a safe default for a class you might be concerned would negatively affect your GPA. However, if you took the class and ended up making an “A,” that wouldn’t work to improve your GPA; you would have to maintain only the pass/fail status. So, in choosing a pass/fail class at the beginning, you are choosing a safeguard for your GPA, but in turn stunting your ability to improve your GPA prematurely.

There’s room for concern also in the motivation which letter grades provide. If you could safely assume making a “C” on a test every time wouldn’t have any adverse effect on your overall grade, what reason would you have to want to study and actually learn the material? As students, we have been conditioned to desire the validation which grades provide. They have carried weight for so long in our lives that in their absence, would we even know how to effectively study and perform in a class without a grade keeping us accountable?

That being said, letter grades attempt to neatly categorize individual students’ abilities on a scale which could never encompass every aspect of different students’ learning capabilities. Without the looming presence of letter grades, students may have the ability to truly tackle their course material in a manner which represents their learning style the best, absent of the threat of learning material a certain way in hopes of a good grade.

Obviously, the pros and cons of a pass/ fail grading system are not exhaustive. There are a lot of considerations to make in the process of deciding the implications of a new grading system. In making the decision to change free electives to pass/ fail courses, what will be vital for a smooth transition and application would be for departmental unity and thorough advising and understanding of the new grading scale.

The Carrier’s editorial opinion represents the views of the senior members of the Campus Carrier and Viking Fusion news staff.

Leave a Reply