I don’t grade student work, and I haven’t for 20 years. This practice continues to feel like an act of personal, professional, and political resistance.
So what are you going to do about it? Lock the child up in a box? Or in other words, regularly test them to the point they begin to hate and fear school because of all the stress it causes them? Testing is a bit like uprooting a plant every other week to check on how much it has grown. The quantum indeterminacy of education is that you can either regularly test children, or you can stand back and let them grow. We need to think outside the box. Assessment can be done without stress, because there are many alternatives to testing – and there’s more than one way to skin a cat.
Grading is good at ‘encouraging people’ to do complicated tasks that are often represented by memorization, obedience and linear thinking. If those are our actual goals. If our goals are complex and include things like creativity… we’re looking to support intrinsic motivation. Grades don’t support intrinsic motivation.
So what do we do about this? For me, the course of action is clear: We need to walk away from traditional grading — in which I include not only multi-interval letter grades but also grades based on statistical point accumulation. We’ve seen enough. Grades are harmful to students’ well-being; they do not provide accurate information for employers, academic programs, or even students themselves; and they steer student motivations precisely where we in higher education do not want those motivations to go. There is no coherent argument you can make any more that traditional grading is the best approach, in terms of what’s best for students, to evaluating student work. If we value our students, we’ll start being creative and courageous in replacing traditional grading with something better.
The grade game is a big thing. Throughout the year every teacher and student will play it. This year we changed the game, and we changed our classroom. I was able to get feedback all the time. I was able to use technology. I learned to self-assess. I had time to revise and check my work which made my writing better. Because I showed evidence of growth and learning, I became a B student.