Student Perceptions of the Fairness of Grading Procedures: The Role of the Academic Environment

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 09:15
Location: Hörsaal 10 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Roland BURGER, University of Tubingen, Germany
Martin GROSS, University of Tuebingen, Germany
This study investigates the extent to which student perceptions of procedural justice and informational justice are not only affected by individual-level characteristics, but also by the academic environment of university departments. The focus is on two aspects of the academic environment: the method of assessing student performance and the organization of classes. Both are subject to department-specific variation: While essays are more common in the humanities and social sciences, STEM fields use exams such as multiple choice tests as the preferred method of student assessment. Likewise, while some programs are geared towards lectures as the primary type of classes, others are more seminar-based. Building upon theories on justice climate, it is expected that the department-specific configuration of the academic environment leads to department-specific justice perceptions.

Multilevel analysis is used to estimate effects of individual- and institutional-level variables on individual justice perceptions. Further, cross-level interactions are fitted to check whether effects of the academic environment vary with student SES. The analysis sample is comprised of n=1.629 students nested in n=48 departments of a German university. The dependent variables are procedural justice (PJ) and informational justice (IJ), adapted from Colquitt’s (2001) instrument. For PJ, perceptions of the amount of control students can exert on the grading process (PJ-C) are treated separately from aspects regarding the perceived validity of grading procedures (PJ-V).

Regression results show that PJ-C and PJ-V are significantly affected by the method of performance assessment. Higher proportions of essays relative to exams lead to higher ratings of PJ-C, while they decrease ratings of PJ-V. Ratings of IJ are higher as well if assessment is more essay-based, although this only affects low-SES students. As for the organization of classes, higher proportions of seminars were found to significantly increase perceived PJ-C and IJ. Again, effects on IJ are moderated by parental SES.