How to kill a learning community with norm-referenced grading systems

Maybe some of you are familiar with norm-referenced grading systems, however I wasn’t. In my country there is nothing similar at any educational level. If you don’t know about it here is a quick link:

http://www1.umn.edu/ohr/teachlearn/resources/grading/index.html#norm

Apparently this system is used commonly around the US in several universities, especially in Law and Medicine schools. I became familiar with the method because in one of my classes surprisingly enough there were some people advocating for the effectiveness of this method to identify the best students in a particular course.

My first thought was how this grading system can negatively affect the creation of a learning community. I don’t see how having students competing against each other to see who is the “best” student based on a grade can be beneficial for the learning environment.

We have discussed about how important is to create a learning community to generate knowledge and part of that is to be able to see other participants in the classroom as your allies. We need to be able to trust each other, to discuss interesting things, to critique each other, and even to have casual conversations about whatever is happening in our lives. That is how communities are build.

I don’t like the method! Is there anyone out there that may help me understand the benefit of this system? have any of you been graded with a system like that? how did you feel?

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3 Responses to How to kill a learning community with norm-referenced grading systems

  1. filot says:

    I could not agree more with your instincts about this, and though my particular experiences as a learner in the U.S. are uncommon, I thought I’d respond to your questions with my own story. Sure enough, the comment I began to leave for you here soon turned into several paragraphs of narrative that probably work better as a post in my own blog. So, that said, thank you for your thoughts in this blogpost and for the inspiration for my own, https://blogs.lt.vt.edu/learninganew/2014/09/21/a-kind-of-outsider-in/

  2. Miko says:

    In another post, I commented that competition is normal because it will naturally take place at the workplace or other non-educational settings. So, students should be somehow prepared to deal with it. However, I do not like when it is taken to the next level and students have to basically compete against each other. I am not familiar either with an actual implementation of this kind of system, but I would definitely love to hear more. Feel free to share here or on Twitter more information about it.

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