Grading gets an F
THE PRINCIPAL of my school has bravely initiated a discussion about whether or not D and F grades should be used by teachers. The argument goes along the lines if D and F grades are ditched then teachers will need to work with their pupils to find the success within every student.
Ds and Fs don’t motivate or promote learning. Finding success does.
Ds and Fs have enshrined the out-dated pedagogy that grading is about sorting and ranking, that students need to be judged in comparison with one another.
The result of such alpha-numeric grading is that the traditional idea of the “good” student — the students who most closely resemble the aspirations of their teachers — is the scale against which students are judged; learning is demonstrated by turning homework in on time, doing well on quizzes and tests and putting your hand up to answer questions while not talking out of turn.
The result of such behavior is turned into a mathematically nonsensical percentage inside a computer, which then spews out the grade. And for many teachers that’s it.
If a student does not fit into this rigid mould, or cannot demonstrate learning by these criteria, then the result is F for Failure.
Yet the research should be pointing us to question this approach: Not only does this traditional way of measuring learning not reveal the learning going on among many students, it is actually an obstacle to learning for all students… the achievers as well as those who appear not to be getting it.
As part of the discussion in our school I was challenged in a meeting to summarize the case against alpha-numeric grading. I mumbled a few sentences as best I could for as long as it seemed polite to do so.
Then, later, I kicked myself for forgetting the key reason grading does not work. So, I decided to summarize in short sentence bites the best case I could muster for a two-minute contribution:
❏ Grades tell students nothing about what they need to do to improve.
❏ Grades tell students nothing about what they have achieved.
❏ Grades focus students on grades and collecting points, not on what they are learning.
❏ Grades introspectively focus students on ability, or their feelings of lack of ability, not on how they can work to improve.
❏ Grades destroy intrinsic motivation.
❏ Grades don’t measure learning: grades measure obedience, compliance and how well a student can jump through a teacher’s grading-policy hoop.
❏ Grades discourage intellectual risk taking.
❏ Grades divert the attention of teachers and parents as well as students.
❏ Grades encourage rote learning, memorization not reflection.
❏ Grades pit student against student, ranking and sorting.
❏ A grades require F grades. Grades force teachers to give Fs to justify the As. Grades work against finding the success in every student.
❏ Grades increase stress. Stress is bad for learning.
❏ Grades don’t describe learning.
❏ Grades throw students off the back of the boat.
❏ Grades discourage student collaboration.
❏ Grades reward skills not valued in later life, such as memorization.
❏ Grades demoralize and demotivate.
❏ Grades label and stigmatize.
❏ Grades are part of an out-dated carrot and stick, rewards and punishment behaviorist approach to education.
❏ Grades lower the self-esteem of low achieving students and discourage risk taking among higher achieving students.
Readers will find plenty of links elsewhere in this blog on the research behind these statements. But a good start would be From degrading to de-grading by Alfie Kohn.
Entry filed under: Assessment + Grading, Pedagogy, Thoughts from the classroom, What's on the PiFactory blog.... Tags: assessment, assessment for learning, formative asessement, grades, grading, summative assessment.