Faculty Beliefs about Grades Inventory

Barnes, L. B. (1997). Development of the Faculty Beliefs about Grades Inventory. Educational and Psychological Measurement 57:459–68.


The 24-item FBGI assesses faculty beliefs about norm-referenced and criterion-referenced grading systems as well as their beliefs about the gatekeeping purpose of grades.

Scale Construction:

Items were written based on a thorough review of the literature, interviews with faculty, and personal observations. The pilot inventory had 62 items and was tested on 75 faculty members using alternate forms. As a result of the pilot study, 40 items were retained.


The original random sample consisted of 243 tenure-track undergraduate faculty from two universities in the Midwest.


Coefficients of internal consistency were 0.86 for frame of reference and 0.83 for gatekeeping.


Content validity was established through the development of the FBGI. Construct validity was obtained through factor analysis.

Factor Analysis:

Although an oblique rotation yielded four factors that accounted for 39 percent of the variance, only the first two factors were interpretable. Therefore, a two-factor solution was accepted. The first factor, frame of reference, contains 13 items (1, 2, 4, 7, 8, 10, 13, 14, 18, 20, 22, 23, and 24). The second factor, gatekeeping, contains 11 items (3, 5, 6, 9, 11, 12, 15, 16, 17, 19, and 21).


Geisinger, K. F., and Rabinowitz, W. (1982). Individual differences among college faculty in grading. Journal of Instructional Psychology 7:20–27.

Goldman, L. (1985). The betrayal of gatekeepers: Grade inflation. Journal of General Education 37:97–121.

Milton, O., et al. (1986). Making sense of college grades: Why the grading system does not work and what can be done about it. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Faculty Beliefs about Grades Inventory

1. The highest scoring student should receive an “A” no matter what the highest score is.
2. Differentiating among students on the basis of achievement is a primary purpose of grading.
3. The distribution of scores on a well-written major exam following effective instruction should be “piled up” at the upper end of the scale range.
4. Instructors should determine cutoffs for grades from the distribution of their students’ scores.
5. Courses in which students learn the most are typically those with many high grades.
6. Students have little respect for instructors who assign many high grades.
7. Comparative grading methods such as grading “on the curve” are the fairest ways of evaluating student performance.
8. Preset performance standards developed by instructors for assigning grades are, for the most part, arbitrary and meaningless.
9. A final exam in which all students score quite high is probably too easy, no matter how well students know the material.
10. Grades should indicate to students where they stand relative to their peers.
11. Leniency in grading constitutes inaccurate feedback and is detrimental to student progress.
12. Generally, a high percentage of “As” in class indicates low standards or a lack of rigor in assessing achievement.
13. A grade should reflect the degree to which a student has mastered course objectives, without regard for his/her ranking in the class.
14. The highest scoring student on an exam should receive an “A” only if that student’s score is above a pre-established cutoff.
15. Departments with high grade point averages generally have lower academic standards.
16. Leniency in grading reduces the value of a college degree.
17. Even with effective instruction the idea that half the class deserves “As” is unreasonable.
18. To be fair, an instructor should try to avoid making comparisons among students in evaluating achievement.
19. The distribution of scores on a well-written major exam following effective instruction should be approximately bell-shaped.
20. A student’s grade should be determined by his/her own performance and not be influenced by how well classmates do.
21. It is theoretically possible for every student in my class to earn an “A.”
22. When I assign course grades, the number or percentage of students in each grade category is an important factor in grading decisions.
23. If the class average on an exam is quite a bit lower than expected, I would adjust the grades upward.
24. I do not believe in “curving” the grades.


Strongly Agree = 7; Agree = 6; Unsure but tend to Agree = 5; Neither Agree nor Disagree = 4; Unsure but tend to Disagree = 3; Disagree = 2; and Strongly Disagree = 1. For scoring purposes, the following items are reversed: 3, 5, 13, 14, 18, 20, 21, and 24.