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Graded universities

It has been found that new, small universities in Norway are easier on the grades than the old heavyweight traditional four universities. It may be argued that small universities have a better teacher/student ration than the larger ones, the most plausible reason seems to be tradition.

These new universities are simply colleges that have matured into university status, and there seems to be a tradition that colleges are easier on the grades than universities. Students now have an adverse reaction to the implication of getting an "easy grade". They now fear that their degree will be worth less in the job market, because the employer may think they are not as good as someone from an older university.

"Which is unfair," says one student, "because I have worked hard for my grade." A statement that actually indicates that the grade was not easy to get after all.

How can this be?

There is a story about how someone wrote an essay and almost failed. He complained, another teacher read the essay and gave the guy an A. If a grade is supposed to reflect your skill, how can it be so subjective?

It all comes down to the definition of the grading system. The grade itself does not by itself give you an objective measure of how well you know the subject. It is a measure of how well you live up to your teacher's expectations. Expectations may vary greatly, and some may even have different expectations from different students in the same class, thus treating them differently.

In addition, students who actively discuss the subject in class tend to be favoured, as they show an interest in the subject, even if this may very well be an issue of introverts vs extroverts.

A better way?

The source material to setting the grade, however, is an indisputable measure. Subjects are divided into several lessons. Each lesson you either don't know, you're learning, or you master. The number of lessons you master is your skill level.

Someone at "Math level 1" knows how to count integers and nothing else. It doesn't matter if it is first grade or 10th grade, it is still level 1. In the grading system, that's an A for the first grader and an F for the 10th-grader. So an A or and F is not directly usable information.

To understand what an A and an F means, you have to find out what the expected skill level for that class was. And to make matter worse, these expectations may vary from year to year.

"Math level 1" still means the same thing, and can be used directly. So you're math level 3 and know how to add and subtract? Sorry, I need an employee with at least math level 5, because the job includes both multiplication and division.


Rating by levels rather than expectations makes learning into a game and is, in fact, quite similar to eduction gamification through Personal Kanban. I also believe that the psychology will be different, in that each level increase signifies a personal achievement that can start a positive spiral for new level increases.

Rating by expectations, however, means that if you're not able to keep up at some point, your grades will go down and thereby initiate a downward spiral instead.

In addition, gamification through skill level measurement, encourages "masterers" to assist those who are falling behind. Expectation rating, however, is a fear based system that encourages students to hide the fact that there are things they don't understand.

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