I hope I get a good grade on this post

Within my teaching program, we have talked a lot about the differences in assessment versus grades. Typically, they are generally thought of as being interchangeable, but they actually mean two very different things. I believe that we should use assessment as a means of seeing where people are at with the material and the concepts being taught. Maybe that is complimented with a grade and maybe it isn’t. However, I don’t think that assessment should always have a grade attached to it. Assessment also may look a lot of different ways. It could be as simple as “write down two things you learned today” or as casual as walking by student groups and listening to what they are discussing.

When it comes to grades, we get into this conversation of what is fair and what is not? I have had classes where the professor curved the class and just as many students got curved down as those that benefited from the curve. Should a student’s grade ever suffer because of how others in the class perform? It can especially be difficult to not incorporate generality into grading when you have a larger class. It isn’t possible to get to know each of the students and to witness their efforts (or lack thereof). When grades are involved, you also take away a person’s ability to freely make mistakes. And that is disappointing when we often learn the very most from our mistakes.

My favorite point made in The Case Against Grades is “grades create a preference for the easiest possible task.” I find myself experiencing this on a regular basis. If the assignment says, “write five pages,” there may be times when I literally write five pages because that is merely what I need to do to get the assignment done. I have to admit that although I wasn’t too keen on blogging for this class, Dr. Nelson has kept her promise that we have freedom within the assignment. This has made it a lot more enjoyable and I find myself not dreading my homework Sundays.

The What Motivates Us video was very interesting. The statement about treating people like people rather than machines and horses really stuck with me. I feel like that is how to be a successful teacher in the classroom. Students typically want to be seen as humans rather than just another body in a seat. Although students have responsibilities they need to be held accountable for, it is still important that a professor recognizes that students have real lives outside of the classroom. Exploring one’s purpose is not an easy feat. The word “purpose” goes so far beyond the classroom.



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16 Replies to “I hope I get a good grade on this post”

  1. Hi Nicole, I really like your examples of assessment at the beginning of your post. I’ve been wondering lately how we can make assessment less formal, but just as meaningful. And I think those two ideas are the perfect example of that! I also enjoyed reading your point about students having lives outside of the classroom. When professors take that into consideration while grading and trying to help students find “purpose”, that realization could make a world of difference.

    1. Thank you! I’ve always view assessment as something that needs to be a formal evaluation up until this past year through my teaching courses. I feel it is important to know where students are at with the material BEFORE we begin to test them, so that we can help them along. : ) After all, if the majority of students are not understanding things, I think that we as an instructor have to at least take partial responsibility for that.

  2. I really enjoyed your post. I think you touch on a very important aspect of this discussion – how to overcome the tendency for students to do the bare minimum on an assignment or in an activity. For teachers, I think we do ourselves a service in admitting that it is likely for all students to have a similar perspective on doing just enough to get by. Yet we should use this as a starting point to move beyond such situations by building-in ways for students to personalize and take ownership over activities or papers to be assessed – similar to the blog. This “creative control” and teacher encouragement holds out the potential for greater student investment.

    1. Thank you! Some of my students had this conversation with me today. I was subbing the professor I TA for since he was out of town. I tried to keep the class very casual, hoping that it would open the doors a bit for conversations about how the class was going. Their feedback was “Oh my goodness! I just have so many others classes and assignments.” It is good to know students are feeling that way. I think it is important to provide them with meaningful learning experiences rather than just giving them stuff, especially knowing that they are already feeling overwhelmed.

  3. Hi Nicole, I really enjoyed reading your post and what you said about using different forms of assessments. Having more “casual” assessment methods may be able to better foster learning through mistakes and different creative outlets. When grades are involved, I think you’re right that students tend to do the minimum, as long as it allows them to get the grades. I also went through this kind of “checklist” mentality, not really bothering (or thinking it worth the risk) to approach the work from a different angle. Your last paragraph really resonated with me as well. Isn’t education supposed to help us explore, discover who we are and our purpose? Just how does assigning grades align with that goal?

  4. Hi Nicole, so your title directed my attention to read your post, mainly because it was on the same line as mine and got my curious… As Grace and Anonymous pointed out, the differentiation between assessment and assessment with grade is key… while reading I remembered about a multiple choice test that had a scoring like 4 if correct, -1 if incorrect and 2 if left blank (or something like that) I needed a score (e.g. 70) to pass the course…so I only answered those question where I was more than (e.g. 75% sure) of getting the correct answer and left the other blank, and I ended up barely passing… now I am starting to think how to combine perhaps assessments first and then grading second? in a way still reluctant to leave grading 100% out of the picture, hehe

    1. Sorry Carlos! Not sure if you posted first or I posted first, but obviously great minds think alike. : ) Similar to one of my previous comments, I like your idea of assessment then assessment + grade. I can tell you that the freshman I teach most definitely needs grades! Haha. However, I could see not using a strict grading scheme for an upper-level small course. In the CALS teaching program we are able to speak with our advisor about our grades in a way that is like “Oh I need more time for that.” It is important to her that our assignments/grades are used as a means of actually helping us to prepare to teach the class we’ve been assigned and that may look different for everyone. The class is so small (8 people) that she is able to have a personal relationship with us, and therefore can speak to us if she feels like she isn’t getting enough effort.

  5. Hi Nicole, I really enjoyed reading your post. You mentioned different forms of assessment in your post. What I was thinking is if we have different forms of grading. Students are now mostly graded by the professor or TA, is it possible for the students to grade themselves? I think it this way because students are not learning for professors or other people. Instead, they’re learning for themselves. Their self-evaluation may be more important than evaluation from others.

    1. Kaisen – I remember my father telling me about a class he took in college where students were able to give themselves a final grade. Haha! Although I personally think that is a horrible idea, I do strongly believe that self evaluation. I’ve observed courses where students have performed in-class quizzes, switched papers, and graded one another’s quizzes. There was no grade for the quizzes; they only served as a means of having the students sort of check-in with themselves. I thought this was a neat concept.

  6. I really enjoyed this post and there has been some great discussion in the comments as well! I love the idea of multiple forms of assessment and evaluation and taking a more holistic view of the topics that we teach as well as the students in our class. And I think blogs are an interesting example of this. I was skeptical of blogs at first but now really appreciate the flexibility that these blogs offer and the discussion and feedback that can follow each post. The author of each post, therefore, can get feedback from the instructor, from other students, and can reflect on their thoughts and ideas following these discussions.

  7. I enjoy reading this post! Thanks for sharing your opinion! I understand those disadvantage of grading for students learning, but I think in my area (engineering) where typically everything has right/wrong, grading is a more objective way to evaluate their performance. And I cannot imagine letting students grade themselves…. If so, why not just give them 20% final grade directly!! lol… sorry!!! I’m an old-fashion teacher who likes grading…… Perhaps, I haven’t thought through it yet!

  8. I agree that if as instructors know each student and their efforts in the class, we better assess their performance. However, sometimes the class is too big, that the task becomes mission impossible. I am TA of a class of 80 students and I am also attending to an undergrad class of more than 200 students. Even as a TA I am not able to recognize all of the students. I believe that this approach can be better applied on small classes.

  9. Your comments that student are human beings touches me. I agree with you, and really want to communicate with students as a human being. But my class used to have 100 students, it was challenging to do that. It was also challenging to grade 100 assignments and tests. Finally, we are using the scantron sheet for the tests, and the assignments are pass/fail system. I am wondering if there would be a better way to grade more like a human being.

  10. Great post!
    I must admit, as an undergraduate, I often succumbed to the temptation of doing the minimum amount of work necessary. Happy to read that it wasn’t entirely my own idleness to blame! I think the grade culture does indeed foster that ‘just enough to pass’ mentality.
    I would like to add however, that the reverse is also true; hard-working students can become obsessed with maintaining a 4.0 GPA or whatever when so much emphasis is placed on letter grades. I would further argue that desperately trying to get all A+s is as detrimental to the student’s learning as the ‘bare minimum’ mindset.

  11. I agree with your point here, having different assessment methods will not only give the students the opportunity to showcase what they learned in the class, but also will increase their problem solving and critical thinking skills.

  12. built into, a measure by which you can butcher people. I believe that the only valid assessment is the reaction of people. For example, we were asked to write an essay about my life, and I am frankly weak in this, so I took a sample from https://studydriver.com/american-dream/ and got a high rating. Whether I acted up, I think not, because the system itself forced me to get the grade it needed. For another example, I put together a tiny circuit with LEDs and a board carrying pictures. In the rating system, both of these projects are on the same level, but my second craft is higher in people’s eyes. That’s why I wouldn’t say I like education where the framework is the same.

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