I’m pulling this out of Andrew’s grading policy thread because I’m interested in responses to a very specific question (although the question is relevant to his thread). It is this: What is an A? If I can find nothing wrong with a student paper, they did everything I asked them to do, they worked hard, but it lacks creativity, pizazz, intellectual insight — is that an A or not? Some papers are clearly better because they are “smarter” but is it fair to downgrade people just because they are not as smart as other people, when you cannot identify anything they could possibly do to improve except, you know, somehow have more to say? It may be relevant that in my system there is an AB grade between A and B. Other schools may be able to distinguish between A and A+ or A-. Do these intermediate grades affect your answers? This is an honors class, and pretty much everybody in it is basically smart and working hard, but some are “better” than others even so. Does that affect your answer? (This is intimately tied to the question of whether grading standards should be absolute or relative, and what the absolute standard should be.)
Note that this distinction is pretty much the same one we make in professional life between the journeymen/women who do well-crafted ordinary science and the “stars” who change our thinking with original insights.