Statement from Former ITP Chair Dan O’Sullivan on the Transition to Pass/Fail in 2008
The ITP faculty, after a great deal of thought, decided to move ITP to a Pass/Fail grading system beginning in the Summer 2008 semester.
- Who will this effect? This effects all ITP students who began the program in or after the Summer of 2008.
- Why did you have to change it? In the non competitive environment of ITP we found that the actual variation in grading was not much more than is more clearly expressed in pass/fail. For the collaborative, project based work at ITP it is difficult to very precisely quantify those small variations and with such a diverse faculty we found it difficult to maintain consistency across classes. A-F system is often used to “grading on a curve” but at ITP we grade against your individual progress. We found that the letter grading was misleading and distracting without adding much value. For the students that did find motivation and affirmation in grades, we want them to find better sources of it. This decision was made after a great deal of thought among the full-time and adjunct faculty, many ITP alumni among them.
- How will I be rewarded for doing extra work? The intrinsic value of the work should motivate you. We found that our best students seemed unconcerned with grades. As in the world you get fired or you don’t, but people find many ways of distinguishing themselves beyond staying employed. Even for class assignments, our students quite often find the feedback and appreciation of audiences and users a better incentive than a single professor’s opinion. We will also encourage more ways to exchange feedback in a narrative form from both professors and peers (eg. blogs).
- How will my transcript look? We seldom have any request for employers to look at your grades. For further study other institutions are unimpressed with straight A’s from a graduate school (unlike undergrad grades) and used to Pass/Fail. Your portfolio and recommendations are what they look at.
- What is the threshold for failing? Earning a C grade in the previous system would be a failure in the new system. In the prior system we said that you had to maintain a B average to stay in the program. This system is a bit more strict in that you have to get a B in the class to get credit for it.
- Okay so then what got me a C in the old system? Because we encourage you to risk failure by stretching to make bridges outside your known interests and aptitudes we cannot, in general, hold you to any absolute level of achievement in any area. Instead you are graded on effort and progress in the quality of your work. There are some objective measures of your effort for instance missing more than two classes or being chronically late, missing two interim assignments or presentations or one large assignment like the final project or a complete lack of in class participation might be clear indicators of a failure in effort. Classes are structured differently so professors will provide a syllabus indicating the requirements and their relative importance. Ultimately the progress in the quality of your efforts is usually a subjective judgment by the professor but students will be given notice when the quality of their work is marginal or failing.
- What does this mean for my scholarship? A pass equates to a B average or better which is required for some scholarships. You will have to get a pass in all your classes for scholarships that are contingent on maintaining grades.
- What happens if I fail a class? Incompletes and extensions are only granted in cases of extreme eternal problems such as serious illness or family emergencies. When you fail a class you do not get credit for it and forfeit the tuition. If it is a required class you will need to repeat it. You will be placed on academic probation after failing one class. You will be asked to leave the program after two fails.