Here’s a touchy subject. Of course, any time you take on the status quo, the system, the “familiar” you run the risk of hitting some sensitive buttons, some sacred cows… and some “third rails”. This be one?
How did we ever end up with letter and number grades as a way of evaluating student work? I’ve gone down this road of inquiry before, and we’ll surely revisit it again.
The history of grading is murky. There are a few conjectures around its origin, but it seems pretty clear that no one really knows how it all got started. It doesn’t seem altogether far-fetched that a science-based culture would find it useful to measure student achievement and progress. How else to know if they’re learning anything? How else to know if they are improving year over year?
There are alternatives of course. And, the “side effects” of testing are not to be discounted. There’s an emphasis on “right answers” of course, with the goal becoming the coveted “100%” or “A+” or “perfect!”. Mistakes become “bad things” to be avoided at all cost – thereby introducing a lack of risk taking, little desire to innovate, or try something new. Oh no, play it safe – go for the grade, it’s all that matters. You can’t undo this – they go together. The emphasis of learning ends up all twisted and wrong-headed.
With grade-getting motivation is located OUTSIDE of the learner – don’t we know the value of INtrinsic motivation??
There’s no time/space here to consider the question of HOW you grade. Goodness no. That’s a whole other piece, er, essay – make that dissertation!
Also let’s not forget the stress and anxiety….
Let’s change the conversation folks! Let’s talk about evaluating a student’s work by looking at it and talking about it. How could we improve? What parts didn’t make sense? What creative ideas were put out there? Where to go next?
There’s so much more we could do than issue letters and numbers to student’s work. How degrading!