Let’s Share The Carrot and Break The Stick!

The school environment shapes us by the processes of assessment, comments, and categorization. It is one of the fundamental turning machines, which develops and molds the way we think. We become our future selves with how well we did during our education. In a way, this experience determines what we will have access to in the competitive work environment. In this sense, it may be the biggest investment of our lives. The goal oriented approach to this process would focus on grades as an indicator of where we deserve to be; however, in practice grades would not help at all, but discovering how we learn and solve problems, which is embedded in the learning process itself, does.

As a student, I have never been motivated by grades. On the contrary, I have always felt stressed about them. However, I was not aware of other ways that is not defined by the pressure of grading, since this process was the representative of whether I should be considered either a good, intelligent, hardworking student or an average student with a tendency to laziness. Students are in a constant fear of losing their position of being a good student and  are under the surveillance in terms of their worth. I believe the grade-oriented relationship between educators and students turns the learning experience into a mechanical set of performances, removing the excitement of learning and inflicting the stress of failure.

Grading is reductive in the sense that it imposes a scheme to assess the performances of the students, who have variety ways of learning and processing information. If so, why do we rely on standardized ways of assessing? I believe it rather makes the outcome simpler to translate in to our highly industrialized and data-oriented world. Unfortunately, it still is the benchmark indicator of how one can contribute to the society. I agree with the following suggestion by Alfie Kohn:

“…our point of departure isn’t mostly about the grading, but about our desire for students to understand ideas from the inside out, or to get a kick out of playing with words and numbers, or to be in charge of their own learning, then we will likely end up elsewhere. We may come to see grading as a huge, noisy, fuel-guzzling, smoke-belching machine that constantly requires repairs and new parts, when what we should be doing is pulling the plug.”

The standardized ways of assessing can be beneficial for the educators to present a depiction of the outcome the students’ learning process; since they are considered to be some sort of measurement and an indicator of success, so that the educators can assess their own performance as well. Yet, how and by whom these standardized ways are created, namely the founding definitions of academic success, is taken for granted most of the time. In a world constantly changing and connecting more and more each day, I believe educators need to do better than employing uniform understandings of assessment and to focus on what we can do to minimize the impact of academic assessment on the learning process as Kohn suggests.