Prof says he'll grade students on a curve, so they organize a boycott of the exams and all get As

Johns Hopkins Computer Science prof Professor Peter Fröhlich grades his students on a curve: the highest score on the final gets an A and everyone else is graded accordingly.

Clever students in Fröhlich's "Intermediate Programming", "Computer System Fundamentals," and "Introduction to Programming for Scientists and Engineers" figured out that this meant that if they all boycotted the exam, they'd all get As.

So they organized a boycott, milling around the hall outside the class where the exams were being sat, sternly reminding each other that if no one sat the exam they'd all get straight As, ignoring Fröhlich's pleas to come and sit the exam.

Fröhlich praised his students' solidarity: "The students learned that by coming together, they can achieve something that individually they could never have done. At a school that is known (perhaps unjustly) for competitiveness I didn't expect that reaching such an agreement was possible."

Andrew Kelly, a student in Fröhlich's Introduction to Programming class who was one of the boycott's key organizers, explained the logic of the students' decision via e-mail: "Handing out 0's to your classmates will not improve your performance in this course," Kelly said.

"So if you can walk in with 100 percent confidence of answering every question correctly, then your payoff would be the same for either decision. Just consider the impact on your other exam performances if you studied for [the final] at the level required to guarantee yourself 100. Otherwise, it's best to work with your colleagues to ensure a 100 for all and a very pleasant start to the holidays."

Kelly said the boycott was made possible through a variety of technological and social media tools. Students used a spreadsheet on Google Drive to keep track of who had agreed to the boycott, for instance. And social networks were key to "get 100 percent confidence that you have 100 percent of the people on board" in a big class.

Dangerous Curves
[Zack Budryk/Inside Higher Ed]

(via Four Short Links)