Traditional grading discourages students from expanding educational horizons
The longer I’ve been in school, the more I’ve noticed that it doesn’t really matter what you’re learning or even what classes you’re taking.
The only thing parents, professors and schools seem to care about is what your grades look like.
As students, I think we all know that school can be a lot harder than it seems. There are a lot of things that can lower our grades that have nothing to do with how hard we’re trying. Sickness, a bad test or quiz here and there, personal issues, etc. Lots of these things are out of our control and can greatly affect our grades.
Because of this, I don’t think our grades can be an accurate representation of who we are as students and how smart we are. Focusing solely on grades does not show how much that student learned in class or how much that student grew in the process. It seems as though when someone looks at a C, people assume, “Oh, you didn’t try hard enough.” But when they look at an A, they don’t stop to think that maybe was just an easy course.
I took a Sociology class that did not have any assignments or tests. The only thing we were graded on were quizzes that we took at home. The quizzes were open-note and open-book. As you can probably guess, I got almost 100 percent on everything and earned an A. Attendance wasn’t even required. Yet, when my parents looked at the A on my transcript they congratulated me without even asking me if I learned anything.
The truth is, I didn’t really learn anything from that class; I hardly even showed up. This is an example of how grades do not define us as students. If I had told my parents the truth about the class, they would probably be disappointed. But they took that A and didn’t even question it.
As a society, I think we need to stop taking grades as a sign of someone’s intelligence. I don’t think we should totally veto grades, but we definitely need to take a more in-depth look at why these students got a B rather than an A, or a C rather than a B. I can tell you, it’s a lot more than just intelligence that affects grades.
Schools and teachers should be asking their students what they learned from the class and how it helped them as a student. And the answers to these questions should be taken into account. We should not be solely relying on grades to determine how well a student is doing, because by doing that, the student is not going to be doing well.
There is also the fact that in many universities, general education classes are also graded. Because of this, many students are going to end up like me, and take an easy-A-class where they don’t learn anything. The reality is, many students do want to take interesting courses that will be hard for them. I would rather take a class on German than another boring English class. But because I know the English class will be easy for me, I’m going to want to take an easier class rather than risk my GPA and get a C in German.
This mindset causes many students to hold back on what they want to know and instead choose what they already know. The point is, general education classes should not be graded by letter, but instead pass/fail. This will help so many more students find new interests, learn what they want and challenge themselves with knew topics.
I think if we really stop taking grades so literally and actually dig deeper, students could benefit a lot more. We need to start assessing if they really did try and just ended up with a C because the class was hard, or if they chose the easy way to an A.
Photo: (CC BY 2.0 by smoorenburg)