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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

What if they gave an exam and nobody came?

A professor tells the class that he will use the highest grade to set the curve. The students all conspire to NOT take the exam, so the highest score is 0, so they should all get A's. If you were the prof what would you do?

This is NOT hypothetical. It happened- see here.

  1. The prof gave all A's and didn't even mind it since the students learned to cooperate.
  2. The prof then changed his grading scheme.
  3. The article calls it a prisoners dilemma problem. I don't think thats right; however, it is the case that someone could have `defected'
  4. Curving an exam based on the BEST student seems odd.

10 comments:

  1. "The students waited outside the rooms to make sure that others honored the boycott, and were poised to go in if someone had. No one did, though."

    I think this makes the boycott avoid being a prisoner's dilemma problem. The students were all outside and if one went in they all would, negating any loss due to participating in the boycott. All in all, a clever plot. :)

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  2. Additionally, they were all working with perfect information, i.e., what each other were doing.

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  3. Alternatively, the Professor could make the case that all the students scored 0% of the maximum score...

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  4. They wouldn't gain anything by taking the exam, it is not PD for so many reason. They can call it whatever they want but there is nothing gained from comparing it with PD.

    I think the professor got 0 in teaching and learned a lesson. If I were the professor I would announce that anyone not writing the exam will get zero. The point of an exam is not to see who is more intelligent.

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  5. What happened to grading against an objective standard instead of a relative curve?

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  6. Whenever my students ask for a curve, I ask them if they would want me to curve an 85 to a C if it happens that the rest of the class scores 90 or above.

    Turns out they don't want a "curve" so much as they just want high grades.

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  7. Yet another example of the power of randomization: if the professor would then announce that he would generate small random numbers for points earned (with the justification that he was just simulating the noise that his imperfect grading criteria would add to the points students would have earned with perfect grading), it would destroy the incentive to collude. A well-prepared student would be induced to take the test.

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  8. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keynesian_beauty_contest for a similar game.

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  9. I would assume that he took this possibility into account. I have heard similar grading policies from teachers and I have also heard of students attempting to work together to set the curve, however students would generally refuse to comply out of fear that the teacher would fail everyone instead of passing everyone.

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  10. does anyone have informmation on what actually happened? i find myself curious.

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