Grades-what are they good for?!?!

What grade did you get? By asking that, are we really just asking how well someone did at memorization and regurgitation? What is a grade? What does it mean? How well does it reflect a person’s learning of a subject? I could go on a little longer with these questions but you get the idea. Be careful how your answer, I am grading you there. If professors, teachers, educators want to assess the information a person has retained and provide feedback as to that assessment, we must do better than a test and grade. As a new professor of record, I tell my students they all have an A in the class. To maintain that, they must be active in class participation and provide some evidence they are learning something. As long as a student finishes the semester knowing one new cool and exciting (yes, this is arbitrary) fact, they have succeeded in the class. To assess them, my assessments are not based on specific question answer tests. Rather, I give essay tests where they just need to use the stuff discussed in class and make a strong argument. I don’t have right or wrong answers as long as you use valid information to support your choice. I used to, and still do to an extent, suffer from test anxiety. I no longer become physically ill and have to use the bag (you know what I mean) but I still get anxious and nauseous before taking a test. Trust me, it is no fun filling out a multiple choice sheet with sweaty hands. Why do we, the educational system, put students through this today? The readings offer critiques of our current system and discussion for alternatives but does that matter? We need to break the system, turn it upside down, share ideas on how to get better assessments. I don’t think we are even testing the students but rather testing ourselves on how well we pass on information. If that is the case, just give them answers, then give them an A, they give us a positive SPOT review and we all win.

Yeah for no education where everyone wins (or is it loses but graduates?).

I think this blog is a difficult test this week. I don’t agree with Standard Of Learning tests. I actually think the acronym SOL is very appropriate. I don’t care for current testing or assessment systems still used in higher education, so staying positive is difficult. RISE UP GEDI and CHANGE THE WORLD!! At least the way we test students and ourselves.


7 thoughts on “Grades-what are they good for?!?!

  1. I agree with your sentiment here, Robert. Is there the possibility that some students (or groups of students) who may benefit from SOLs or similar standardized tests? For example, if someone has a bad teacher, using the Internet to find study guides might be an accessible alternative…


  2. I couldn’t agree with you more! I think the system in place creates a level of anxiety for students that detracts them from learning. Being so focused on “what my grade was” and not on what you actually learned in the class is such a problem. I didn’t get the best grades/GPA in undergrad, and that was mentioned to me during my graduate school interview. I told my professor that my grades/GPA did not reflect the type of learner that I was and my ability to put my best effort in creating quality work. There definitely needs to be a shift in how we evaluate students and more of a focus on if our students are really grasping the concepts or simply just retaining it for a short period to take the test.


  3. I completely agree with you here! How we grade, why we grade, and the affectual nature it has on the student are things we rarely consider. I do similar things in my course, encouraging teamwork and time management as keys to retaining the knowledge necessary to do well in the course. They always seem bored, but I try my hardest to have fun with the gloomy forecast of our economic climate. Hey kids at least you are still alive and can go buy your food rather than scavenge. Yeah, I try, but why should I? And why should they? Great post!


  4. Robert, thank you for your post! I completely agree, testing is a HORRIBLE way to assess student’s learning. In the words of my students today, it’s absolute trash. Testing places an immense amount of pressure on the students to succeed, to be a statistic, not to learn and retain information but rather “learn” and regurgitate information. Personally, I always enjoyed essay questions on exams as opposed to multiple choice but in an essay, I can provide evidence as well as an explanation for why I’m writing what I’m writing. I agree, the educational system needs a shake up when it comes to assessment and evaluation of our students. I hope this new eve of educators is ready to challenge the status quo. I truly believe that if enough people make some noise, things will begin to change.


  5. I really enjoyed your post! It was so cool to hear about your experience teaching and how you have structured your class. I think if we all can make even small changes, that can lead to big changes!


  6. I really like you have structured your classroom. It reminds me of the Dan Pink video when he says, give someone enough money so that they can focus on the work. So by telling your students they have an A in the class upfront, it takes pressure off of them and they can focus more on the learning. I also really like your essay question idea! I might have to keep that one in mind for when I start teaching. Thanks!


  7. Robert, I agree! I want to shake up the system and have an alternative to grades, but I don’t know how to do it. I think that if enough of us make these positive changes in our classrooms, we can cause the change! I like the way you are structuring your classroom. I can see people wanting to criticize you, though. I’m sure people will think you are letting students by too easily or not making them work hard enough to get an A. I, on the other hand, think it’s excellent. You’re letting them know up front that if they have fun, learn, and participate with their fellow students, then they will succeed! In the real world (rather, not in the classroom), I think learning, having fun, and participating in your work, play, and friends/family is also the key to success and to a great life. Cheers, Robert!


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