Issues with Grading

When your a kid, your parents tell you that if you want to be successful then you need to go to school and get “good grades”. The interesting thing is that, by simply “getting good grades”, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are actually learning and retaining anything. All you’re doing is showing on paper that you can read over some index cards a few hundred times to memorize the answers to a test, take the test and potentially get a passing grade to take back to mom and dad. Mom and dad then take that passing grade and put it up on the fridge and tell their child, that they’re going to be succesful if they keep that up.

While that may very well be true, the child most likely will forget what they’ve memorized from that index card in about a week because then the class will be onto another topic that will require them to probably do the same thing with another set of index cards. The cycle keeps repeating itself in a never-ending process.

Kohn’s reading was intersting as it highlighted the effects of grading, that it diminishes students’ interests in whatever they’re learning, create’s a preference for the easiest possible task and reduces the quality of student’s thinking. I would agree with these points, because as I reflect on my educational experiences, I absolutely looked for the shortest readings, and studied only the information that I knew for sure was going to be on the test.

The issue with this, is that I limited myself to only the information that I needed at the moment verses not taking the time to really understand the concepts fully. As I have gotten older and have started to understand this idea a little better, I do believe that professors should find creative ways to encourage their students to not soley focus on the grades they might or might not get and focus on really understanding what they’re in class learning.

What has been really encouraging for me is taking a class this semester focused on the issues of college pedagogy where we have talked about this very issue. We are talking about the issue of grading and the types of effects that it has on students. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a fully thought out way to combat this issue, however I think by continuing these conversations, we should be able to get there eventually.


6 Replies to “Issues with Grading”

  1. Thanks for your post. The idea of the people to encourage the students to learn as their first priority seems to be Not working at all, and we really need to do something about it. A lot of students come and ask me which course is easy A! they just do not care whatever they might need. So we better come up with a solution for getting students to be engaged in learning rather than grades. Thanks

  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this matter. You bring up some good points. It is ironic that the system is such that even though we talk about assessment, there is a grade in the end of this class too…that is the systemic issue. Do you have any ideas yet of how at least the learning can be assessed rather than the regurgitation of information? On step at a time right?!

  3. Thanks for your post. I agree; as educators, we should be looking for ways to engage students in the content rather than being concerned about the letter grade. I can identify with the index card example. There must be at least 200 in my desk from previous courses, and I could maybe tell you the material on half of them.

  4. Stephen,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts! I definitely agree with a lot of what you said and it made me wonder if the way some teachers phrase how they present some of the information, does that cause more students to only study for the test? I’m sure that is probably not the case but it just made me curious. This course has been better at getting me to think more about the process/structure than previous courses and I am curious the direction education ends up going in the future.

  5. Stephen,

    I enjoyed your blog post for this week. I was definitely one of those students that would memorize, regurgitate, and then move on. I was so stressed with trying to pass my classes and Virginia SOL’s that I just need to continuously say, “okay, on to the next thing”. Since entering graduate school I have been methodical in how I learn, but that is also a product of maturity and that my professors have given me the opportunity to learn well beyond just mastering material through an exam. I concur with Jyotsana, grading is a systemic issue.

  6. Your point in the last paragraph is what I keep getting hung up on: “Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a fully thought out way to combat this issue.” I, too, hope that eventually we will figure out a better way to assess learning in the classroom, but I constantly wonder HOW? We have lots of written essays about the negative effects of grades, but I still have a hard time seeing any other way working effectively.

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