Do Grades Matter?
Drexel University - Earle Mack School of Law
June 22, 2012
Seattle University Law Review, Vol. 35, No. 2, 2012
Drexel University Earle Mack School of Law Research Paper No. 2012-A-04
Law school grading is regularly identified as the source of law student distress and disengagement. Although there is an abundance of literature criticizing law school grading, there is surprisingly little empirical research that investigates law students’ attitudes regarding grading. This Article presents the results of an empirical research project that investigated law students’ expectations and attitudes regarding their grades and the use of curved grading in law school. These results challenge some of the conventional wisdom about law students and grades and suggest that law professors may not necessarily know our students as well as we think we do.
For example, despite law professors’ widespread criticism of curved grading, the data from this research project indicate that law students do not uniformly oppose the use of curved grading. In addition, the data suggest that although many students come to law school with unrealistically high expectations regarding their grades, law students are relatively resilient when their grades do not live up to those expectations. Moreover, when law students were divided into three groups based upon their grade point average (high, middle, and low), statistically significant differences were not found between the responses of these three groups of students to questions regarding their satisfaction with attending law school and anticipated enjoyment of being lawyers.
These results suggest that while legal educators must take seriously the importance of grades to law students, students’ grades may be less salient in certain respects than many legal educators believe. The results also highlight the need for law professors to learn more about law students’ perspectives and for legal education to become more evidence-based.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 73
Keywords: legal education, law school, law students, grades, grading, expectations, empiricalAccepted Paper Series
Date posted: June 23, 2012
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