Managing the grading paradox: Leveraging the power of choice in the classroom


Dobrow, S. R., Smith, W. K., & Posner, M. A. 2011. “Managing the grading paradox: Leveraging the power of choice in the classroom.” Academy of Management Learning and Education, 10(2): 261-276.


How can management educators cultivate students’ interest in the MBA classroom? Inspiring interest, an important antecedent of learning, can be an uphill battle due to the ubiquitous presence of grades. Grades are meant to encourage interest, yet they often do just the opposite. The result is a grading paradox. We hypothesize that leveraging choice in the classroom can manage this grading paradox by increasing interest. In a field experiment in real-world MBA classrooms (N = 91 students), we found that a choice intervention, the opportunity for students to allocate the weight of several course components toward their final course grade, was associated with higher levels of two types of interest, triggered situational interest and maintained situational interest. This study corroborates and extends previous laboratory-based research documenting the positive relationship between choice and interest, and offers a practical tool that management educators can use to encourage student interest.
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