One thing that I have been told by a few different teaching mentors is the 25%25% 50% rule. The rule goes something like this: 25% of your class is going to be on board with almost anything that you do. Another 25% will not be on board with almost anything that you do, whether it’s for lack of interest in the subject, or a heightened interest in another subject, or parties, or WoW, they just aren’t devoting that much time to your class. That last 50%, that’s the 50% that what you do makes all the difference whether or not they are on board. For the duration of the blog, let’s assume this is, at least generally, true.
Looking specifically at the “Case Against Grades”I’m wondering how some of the “effects of grading” and the benefits of getting rid of grades would affect the 25%25%50% rule. Would that first 25% who are totally on board no matter what, produce even better work? Think at an even higher level? Maybe. Maybe their already extant self motivation would be augmented and their creative freedom would result in some amazing things.
That other 25% though, what would be the effect of taking grades away from them? Would they magically care a little more? would that 25% become 12%? and the other 13% join the 50%? Would they all join that 50% and there would be no one focused on doing the bare minimum? Or are grades just motivating enough, to get the students that don’t care about the subject to put in a little effort in order to pass? I don’t know.
Before we go any further with this, let me admit that I’m looking at this from a hugely generalized perspective. I know every individual student has their own motivations, and each will respond differently to different scenarios. Still I can’t imagine that getting rid of grades is going to have the same effect on every student, the same way the keeping grades won’t have the same effect on every student.
That leaves the 50%, or the 63%, How would getting rid of grades alter their education? Personally I think this is where the lack of grades would have the most effect. I think they would be the ones that would relish in the autonomy, and be more focused on the task. They would spend more time thinking about how to accomplish the task than how the teacher wanted them to accomplish the task. They would be thinking more critically, more invested, all the things that getting rid of grades is supposed to accomplish.
All that being said, leads me to the question. What about that 12-25% that just aren’t going to care no matter what? Can we let them not care and give them credit for completing the class? Or would that lead to a decrease in the value of VT degree? Can we grade them more on a gut feeling about how much work they put in, or how much they participated? Or would that create legal issues if they decided to protest the grades, having nothing but the teacher’s opinion to go on? Also, how would that affect the university’s graduation rate? Do the politics or the university play a role in how all of this would go down if it were allowed to happen?