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I have had a few professors who announced to the class the mean and median scores for each exam, but I haven't seen anyone go further than this (e.g., announce this information for homework too, give a histogram of all the scores, etc.). Also, this information has always been kept semi-private, in the sense that it is announced verbally in class, without an explicit instruction not to share it, but still making it unlikely that the information would spread beyond the class.

I'm wondering what to take into consideration when deciding what sort of information to provide, and how. Would it be acceptable to put the mean and median scores for each exam on my (publicly available) website, for example? Or is that violating the privacy of my students in some way? Might they be ashamed, as a group, if they've all done extraordinarily badly? But as their teacher, I would have to also be ashamed if that were the case - so perhaps deciding to publicize how my students are doing ought to be considered as a sign of confidence that my teaching will make them do well.

I'm sure there are other issues I'm not thinking of regarding this. Your experiences (either as a student or as a teacher) with classes that gave this sort of information, and any other thoughts, would be welcome.

Edit: I'd be teaching an undergraduate math class. But regardless of my personal situation, I'd like to hear whether you think the field of study, or the level of the course, affect the answer to the question.

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    I always report the complete set of scores for each exam, as a sorted list of numbers—just the scores, no names, ID numbers, or pseudonyms. – JeffE Sep 29 '13 at 12:20
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    In a probability class, I once announced the mean, variance, skewness and kurtosis! – Nate Eldredge Sep 29 '13 at 14:03
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    Speaking as somebody who's been a student and has not been a teacher (of any serious class of higher ed students), I appreciate being given a full anonymised set of results. It's interesting, it allows me to analyse the results to my own ends, and it's fairly unquestionably transparent. While it is true that "anonymous" isn't necessarily so, especially at the upper and lower ends, I don't think the top and bottom of the class are often 'unknowns' anyway. – Phoshi Sep 29 '13 at 18:06
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    I do agree that receiving the set of all grades is great for pinpointing where you are in the class, but I once had a professor that not only listed all the grades from highest to lowest, he then proceeded to hand out the tests in reverse numerical order. That was degrading for some, as you can imagine. – Jonathan Landrum Oct 1 '13 at 15:48
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Revealing information about grades is normally directed by some combination of university policy and government regulations (if one is teaching at a public institution of higher learning).

Where I teach, for instance, all grades for written exams are officially published, but semi-anonymized by replacing the students' names with their student ID numbers. In addition, the aggregate statistics are also published, along with the rubric for converting "raw" scores into final grades.

My general belief, however, is that grades are an "internal" matter, that should not generally be publicized beyond the extent required by regulations. There is no need for everyone in the world to see the grade distribution.

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    In some locations (like the US), government regulations apply to all schools regardless of public/private/whatever. See Nate Eldredge's answer. – Ben Norris Sep 29 '13 at 23:45
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This answer is based on my experience teaching undergraduate math in the US.

Students are used to having at least the mean or median, so as to give them some context for their score. If you don't announce it, you can expect to be asked about it.

I've never bothered to post exam statistics on a web site. I wouldn't see it as a privacy issue, though it does feel a tiny bit like over-sharing. Mostly it's that students want this info at the moment they receive their graded exams; they won't want to read it later, or remember it from earlier. So even if you post it, you'll probably have to announce it also.

Legally, I understand that FERPA generally forbids releasing identifiable student information. There should be no legal objection to statistics, or even an anonymized list of scores. (Note, though, that university ID numbers may not be considered sufficiently anonymous.)

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    At my university in the U.S., university ID numbers are both insufficiently anonymous and privileged information themselves! – paul garrett Sep 29 '13 at 15:15
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    Same at my (US) university. For me, even using (say) the last four digits of the university ID number is explicitly forbidden, as is publishing a list of grades in alphabetical order by last name but with no identifying information of any kind. – JeffE Sep 29 '13 at 20:07
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    When I was an freshman, one professor published the grades with the names and the social security numbers on his door. After being flabbergasted (and as I recall, either no on else noticed, or seemed to care), I used the opportunity to memorize a few of my friends' SS numbers and then announced that I knew the algorithm to determine an individual's number. I'd ask where they were born, what year, how many older siblings, etc., and reveal more of the number with more data. That got their attention! – Chris Gregg Sep 30 '13 at 4:22
  • @JeffE I can only imagine the consequences of having two students going to two classes where both teachers did this - they would be able to uniquely identify each others "secret" information. – user2813274 Dec 11 '14 at 23:29
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Look at regulations that apply to you, whether local or national. There has been a recent shift to more privacy on this issue, so in most institutions today grades of a specific students are not public (no one knows except the student himself, and probably the NSA). In my institution (in France), full listings of grades are regularly posted, but they are anonymous (associated with student numerical ID, not with name). Back when I was a student, though, full listings of names and grades were not uncommon!

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I can share some experience as simultaneously student, TA and developer of software evaluating user data gathered by learning management systems (including test results).

  • Do not share any personal information without consent ever. This goes as far as that you should not show any statistics based on gender, age or any other identifier as this often leads to single students being identifiable (everyone seems to be craving for gender statistics nowadays but this is almost impossible doing anonymously in technical fields where there are few woman).

  • You can of course ask all students if it is ok to create some more extensive statistics. Beware that any consent may be caused by peer pressure though. Go for an opt-in rather than opt-out approach if you want to be fair (or the other way around if you want their consent). I think this really depends on trust and the relationship between you and your students.

  • Many people feel uncomfortable if too much of their personal data is stored online. They will feel spied upon. For most students the advantages (seeing own success, areas for improvements) are outweighed by the disadvantages (people can see where they failed, make prediction about their chance to graduate, ...). They won't trust any system their data is stored on (and rightfully so, many universities store large amount of personal data for years, freely accessible by any system administrators).

  • Ask yourself, are you ok with other teachers seeing your students average results? How about your supervisors? It could affect your career if they knew you let too many students fail or give good grades too easily (management most likely knows this already anyways though).

  • If there were public average results of tests of each teacher available, as a student, of course I would use this as a measurable factor in my decision for choosing a teacher for my upcoming course. Sure, the word probably gets around anyway if you grade students better/worse compared to other teachers but extensive statistics on this subject are gold for the lazy student.

  • If you want to share individual test result online, don't rely on student IDs for anonymous results. Fellow students know each others IDs. Sometimes IDs contain information that can be used to identify students as well. The only reliable approach I've seen, is to let each student write a secret keyword on their test, which you later list online next to their grade. The whole page shouldn't be public for everyone.

Still, don't let this discourage you to share information with your students. If you gather any statistic that could help a particular student to improve, it would be best to discuss this in case they come see you during office hours. Even if it's just to praise a student or offer help when his grades are declining.

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