Like most of my peers, I have been evaluated, graded, criticized, and judged in just about every way possible both in and out of school during the last 25 years. During my more competitive years in horseback riding and showing, I quite literally had every movement my horse and I made scored and ranked against my fellow competitors. In school, every assignment that I completed received some sort of grade. Whether a simple check was placed on the top of my paper to an actual numerical grade, I have become accustomed to having pretty much everything I do graded.
At Penn, every rotation and class is graded on a 4.0 scale with no “pluses” or “minuses.” That is, whether or not you earn an 89 or an 80, you still get a B. For some people in my class (myself included) this proved to be quite aggravating at times. However, at the end of the day it did seem to “work itself out” in our purely academic classes.
Recently, one of my classmates and I engaged in a discussion about the numerical grading of clinical rotations. While I believe that the first few years of learning (at least at Penn) should have some base level of grading so as not to propel forward the students who are less inclined to work hard, the grading of clinical rotations seems futile and at times counterproductive.
I think that assigning a pass/fail grading system to our clinical rotations would encourage students to learn in a “safer” environment. I know that I and a lot of my peers who have received B’s on rotations without a decent explanation (rubrics and feedback can sometimes be hard to come by) often feel discouraged. I think I speak for my entire class when I say that we may not feel ready to go out there and start being “real life” veterinarians just yet, but feeling like a B student on clinics certainly is not helping the cause.