We’re a society hell bent on competition and ranking and sorting, and much of that no doubt has contributed to the focus on grades as an easy way (supposedly) of giving a value to what has been “learned.” And we all know how hard it is to change course when it comes to grades.
I remember when I finally convinced my department chair to let me teach Expository Composition as a workshop with just a culminating grade co-decided on by me and the student, you’d think the world was going to end. And not just from my colleagues in the department, but from students and parents as well. “What do you mean you’re not going to grade my essay?” “What do you mean part of the final evaluation is going to come from how well I self-reflect on my portfolio of work?” “What do you mean there won’t be an interim grade?” And so on. When the new department chair came on a few years later, my workshop approach was quickly phased out since it was too hard to track the outcomes and align the standards…supposedly.
Anyway, there is a huge case to be made for getting rid of grades, and this snip from a post at NuVu Studio articulates what the benefits can be:
But without grading, how would students be motivated to work? The motivation to do/create is a key aspect of the design studio. If you ask our students, the motivation to create comes from an intrinsic feeling based on the fact that they are working on real projects that they themselves feel are meaningful and matter. The students come up with the project idea, they work together to come up with relevant solutions, they try and test out their results, and they also assess the impact of their work. This process, done over the course of many months, slowly builds creative confidence within our students while building a strong culture of creative learning in the studio.
Don’t know about anyone else, but I want my kids to be intrinsically motivated, to be patient problem solvers, to really love the process and the product. Right now, too much of it is just about the grade.