Dan Pink puts forward the fact that incentives at a workplace do not help in improving the work or achieving a task faster. Moreover, sometimes they hamper the task at hand. In short, incentives are not a good motivator. He further talks about the importance of Autonomy (desire of self-driven), Mastery (desire to learn and improve without any incentive or recognition) and lastly Purpose (something you can align yourself with, want to achieve through work and contribute to the world). These points made by Dan Pink makes me think that in a way grading and assessment at the school or university level are supposed to be motivators. The question is how good are they?
Well, getting good grades might land you a job but does not necessarily guarantee mastery, autonomy, purpose or even creativity. The only way these things can be achieved is if we start to adopt a new way of learning which focuses more on learning and mastery rather than grades. If we want students to retain knowledge and transfer it further, written exams and tests alone won’t help. Practical knowledge along with the use of creativity and problem -solving needs to be adopted as well.
There is no way we can get away with the exams completely. They have their place. But there is a need for change in student attitudes. There is a need to make them think that learning is also important and not only grades. This I think can be done by incorporating new assessment techniques. Group projects involving real-life problems is one of the ways. Group projects also lead to peer assessment which is very close to the real world job scenario. I also feel that exam questions should be set more in a practical way rather than a theoretical way. Real life situations in exams will make students think of the problem at hand, analyze it, question it, use existing approaches to solve it and identify the consequences. Self-assessment by the students at the end of the class is something that is gaining popularity as well. This is where students assess their performance in the class and submit the assessment to the teacher. In the end, it is all about adjustment and change for the betterment. It does not motivate students to do better but moreover, stops their creative thinking by narrowing their approach to learning. Bad grades may also sometimes shatter you completely. So, I think a mid-way approach (improving our current grading system) is the best way forward. I am of the view that grading and exams should stay but their importance should be minimal. Learning is the main focus and should always be.
What do you think? Are the grades necessary? Are they motivating students to perform better? Is there a middle way? Can we improve the current grading system and make it more learning-centric?