Faculty Resources

S/F Grading Policy

S/F Grading Policy

2003 Proposal - adopted by the WSU CVM August, 2003; reaffirmed by the WSU CVM faculty, July, 2006.

In August, 2000, the WSU Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology began a 3 year experiment using Pass/Fail (S/F) grading in all departmental courses in the core veterinary curriculum. In each VMP course, students were examined and received numerical test scores as in previous years. However, the test scores were not converted to letter grades and students did not receive an overall letter grade for the course. Instead, each student received either an S (satisfactory) or F (failure) grade. Students with marginal performance were identified for internal CVM purposes with a “Provisional” or “Marginal” Pass. This designation was considered the equivalent of a “D” grade and counted against the CVM’s >5 credit hour “D rule”.

During each semester that S/F courses were offered by VMP, veterinary students were also enrolled in core courses that awarded traditional letter grades.

The experiment was assessed based on student acceptance surveys, student performance on exams compared to performance in the three preceding years, and faculty acceptance. (Student survey results to date are posted here. Upon meeting on April 23, 2003, to discuss student survey results and faculty perceptions, there was strong consensus among VMP teaching faculty that the outcome had been positive. As a result, we unanimously propose that another 3 year experiment be conducted. (see following pages)

Guiding Principles
(modifed from Colorado State University PVM Program; “Rationale for change in grading policy; 2001)

[1] Students admitted to the WSU DVM program have outstanding academic credentials. Average grade point averages (GPA) for entering classes are > 3.6 and average class graduate record examination (GRE) combined scores are >60%. Upon entering the professional program, it becomes less important to differentiate these successful students by assigning letter grades. Instead, the essential requirement is that all students master an acceptable level of competency as expected by the faculty and the society that they will be serving. Moreover, an excessive focus on letter grades has the potential to perpetuate an extrinsic orientation and increase competition to unnecessary or unhealthy levels. These may undermine the inherent, lifelong love of learning and collaborative spirit we seek to promote in our graduates. We, the faculty of the WSU College of Veterinary Medicine, wish to create an environment in which learning is the primary focus. Our goal is to work together with our students to help them meet learning goals. Therefore, it is highly desirable to establish learning objectives in the curriculum and expect sufficient mastery of these objectives. Averaging examination scores to determine a traditional letter grade is less desirable than expecting acceptable mastery and assigning final course evaluations as satisfactory (pass) or fail.

[2] It is the professional responsibility of CVM faculty to identify marginally performing students in the DVM program as early as possible. It is then more likely that learning disabilities or factors affecting examination skills can be discerned and preemptive action, including faculty mentoring, peer tutoring, and professional counseling, can be implemented to improve upon borderline academic performance. Likewise, considerable college and student resources may be conserved if poorly performing students can be redirected early in their training to alternative career options. Therefore, a S/F (satisfactory / fail) grading system adopted by the college should include a system by which students who consistently perform marginally can be identified and referred to the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and/or the CVM Student Progress Committee.

[3] Within the DVM program, it is important to identify students with outstanding scholarly potential and promote their interest in resident and post-DVM graduate training programs. We want these exceptional students to be positioned to meet the scholarly challenges of the profession. Therefore, the college must maintain some accurate measure of relative performance that allows these students to be selected for advanced training positions. The CVM’s current class ranking system (instituted in August, 2002) should be retained as the most accurate and relevant method of relative performance. A student’s overall rank within his/her class in concert with letters of reference from qualified faculty will allow for evaluation and comparison with students graduating from other schools of veterinary medicine, for purposes of selection for advanced training

Please note that there are 2 parts to this proposal.
(i.e. a vote to approve is to approve both parts, whereas a vote to reject is to reject both parts.

Therefore, it is proposed that beginning Fall semester, 2003, a satisfactory (pass)/fail grading system be implemented on a 3 year experimental basis for all courses in the pre-clinical DVM program

  • The CVM’s current class ranking system by which students are ranked in each course will be retained as the method to calculate overall student class rank and, thereby, identify students who consistently perform at an advanced level.
  • Individual examinations and assignments will continue to be scored numerically in order to give students quantitative performance feedback (and to provide data for the calculation of course rank). Exams will not be marked with traditional letter grades, which have little meaning in this system.
  • Each Course Director, in collaboration with faculty teaching in the course, will clearly define the minimum standards for passing their course and publish those standards in the course syllabus. These standards should reflect what the instructors believe is sufficient mastery. Sufficient mastery is defined as a level of performance that will allow each student to be successful at the next level in the curriculum and to become competent members of the profession.
  • The Course Director and teaching faculty will also publish in the syllabus a clear definition of “Provisional” or “Marginal” Pass. Although this designation is currently recorded at the university as an “S” grade, it is also reported to the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Office of Student Services. A Provisional Pass is the equivalent of a “D” grade. According to the CVM Academic Standards, students who accumulate more than 5 credit hours of “D” and/or its equivalent must appear before the CVM Student Progress Committee.
  • Students and faculty will be surveyed at the end of each academic year as a measure of outcome and acceptance. An open meeting will be held early each summer as a forum for faculty discussion.
  • The experiment can be ended at any time during the 3 year experiment by a majority vote of the CVM faculty.
  • At the end of year 3, CVM faculty will meet to discuss outcome and acceptance. A decision to accept or reject S/F grading as a permanent grading policy will be determined by a faculty vote.

Part #2: A CVM Dean's List
In order to more effectively recognize students who achieve academic excellence in the core veterinary curriculum, a WSU College of Veterinary Medicine Dean’s List will be named after the end of each semester. Students who, during the preceding semester, were ranked in the top 15% of their class for that semester will be named to the CVM Dean’s List. A Dean’s List will be constructed for each of the first three years (students in years 1,2 and 3; seniors on clinical blocks will not be considered due to the asynchronous nature of year 4). Dean’s List designation can be listed as an “honor” on a student’s resume when applying for jobs or post-DVM training positions.