In the next semester, I will be teaching for the first time
a seminar course which is composed of about 25 students.
I am not sure how to respond to prospective students
who have asked me about the grade distribution of the course.

For courses with large enrollments,
I have the impression from my colleagues
that I have to follow the “typical grade distribution” at my university,
which is something like 25% As, 50% Bs, 20% Cs,
and some Ds and Fs if the students really did poorly.

However, for the new course that I am teaching,
I am wondering if I will be given more leeway in the grade distribution
because the course has a small enrollment.
I would like to give grades based on the students’ performance.

  • So if many of the students perform well,
    I would like to give 90% or even 100% of the students
    A grades (A-, A and A+).
  • Conversely, if most of the students perform poorly,
    I would like to be able to give a low proportion of A grades.

Every semester,
a committee made up of members of my department
which will meet to discuss the grade distributions
of each and every course offered by our department.
I am hesitant to recommend grades that deviate too far from
the “typical grade distribution” at my university
because I am afraid of receiving pushback from the committee members.


  • Should I fight for the freedom
    to assign grades according to my academic judgment,
    without necessarily following
    the “typical grade distribution” at my university?
  • Is this a fight that I could win, and if so,
    how do I go about winning it?


I had forgotten to include an important and relevant piece of information.
The goal of the course is to teach students
how to analyze and present business case studies.
Consequently, by its nature,
the evaluation of the students’ performance in the course
will tend to be more subjective,
rather than objective (as it would be for a course on say, calculus).

The grading of the course is based purely on continuous assessment;
we do not have a final exam for the course.
(Given that the purpose of the course is
to develop students’ presentation skills,
a written examination does not seem to be
the right way to assess students’ learning.)

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