The Purpose and Power of Grades

In last week’s Instruction Committee meeting we had a lively discussion about grades and grading based on the article “Teaching More by Grading Less (or Differently)” (Schinske & Tanner, 2014). In their feature, the authors raise some compelling questions such as:

What if instructors spent more time planning in-class discussions of homework and simply assigned a small number of earned points to students for completing the work?

What if students themselves used rubrics to examine their peers’ efforts and evaluate their own work, instead of instructors spending hours and hours commenting on papers?

What if students viewed their peers as resources and collaborators, as opposed to competitors in courses that employ grade curving?

The faculty in attendance generated many more questions and quite a few observations and ideas, too. Here are just of few of issues we raised:

  • What does an “A” mean?
  • What does a class without grades look like?
  • Evaluation and intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation in our students
  • Does Blackboard exacerbate the problems of grading?
  • Can we work within the parameters of Blackboard and still maintain diversity of evaluation/teaching methods?
  • How to balance feedback and grades – do grades preclude students from reading/acting on/learning from feedback?
  • Do students “need” grades? How can we shift the culture around grades and expectations?
  • How to give feedback?
  • How to evaluate student work outside of grades?

What are your thoughts on grades and grading? Have you made changes to your grading practices over the years? Share your thoughts, concerns, or ideas below in the Comments.

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image source: https://picryl.com/media/good-grades-and-good-health-go-together-city-of-chicago-municipal-tuberculosis

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