18 Feb 2019 20 Comments
This subject is so important and complicated. Our performance was measured by grades since primary school; and now, we are grading other students. Is grading a good or bad thing? Does it really reflect the student’s performance? I have taught some students who understand the material and participate in class; but they don’t do well in tests, so they don’t get good grades but they are learning! Can we say that they are not good students while they are the best learners? Isn’t it contradictory?
Alfie Kohn stated three different drawbacks of assessment, which I agree with. He said “Grades tend to diminish students’ interest in whatever they’re learning” because they are gonna be focused on grades more than learning. Second, he said “Grades create a preference for the easiest possible task”. This means that, students choose the easiest project rather than the most challenging one in order to get good grades. Also, he said ” Grades tend to reduce the quality of students’ thinking”. During class, instead of thinking about constructive questions that make them understand better the material, they are thinking if the material will be on the test.
Another grading drawback is the ranking! I have studied in Tunisia, and I can see the difference compared to US. Instead of letter grades, we have numeric grades and GPA, but what matters is the rank! The difference between the first student in the class and the second one, could be one or two points in a math exam. At the end of the year, they give prizes only to the first and second students in the class. If you are the third, and as excellent as the others; sorry! No prize for you! This motivates the third to work hard and beat the other two. But the motivation is not about learning, it is only about winning!
I really don’t like this grading system. But at the same time I don’t know what could be the alternative? If there is no grading, and at the same time no learning motivation (because students are obliged to take classes even if they don’t like), students will loose interest in class. They will be absent all the time and learn nothing. How can we assess them then? May be the problem is not only about the assessment strategy, but also about choosing subjects and classes. Shall we force the students to take classes they are not interested in, or shall we give them freedom in choosing all the classes. If we should let them choose their own classes, at what age should be that? Will they be mature enough to make good choices?