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Thursday, February 01, 2007

An ethical dilemma

It is unethical, as I’m sure you know, for a teacher to reveal any individual student’s grade to another student. (Students reveal their own grades all the time, of course, but that’s their decision, not ours.) This principle placed one of my colleagues in an ethical dilemma the other day: student A claimed that student B received a higher grade on a group project and asserted that this was unfair, since they were in the same group. Now we could argue about whether such a discrepancy is inherently unfair — and it’s easy to say that it isn’t — but in this particular case the students had in fact received the same grade. (Presumably student B lied about his grade, inflating it out of one motive or another.) So what does the teacher do? On the one hand, saying “you all received the same grade” is tantamount to revealing B’s grade. On the other hand, telling A “it’s none of your business what B got, just be concerned with your own grade” would perpetuate A’s mistaken belief that B got a higher grade. So what is the teacher to do?

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