Grading sucks

I’m starting to think that grading doesn’t just suck, but is actually damaging. I don’t have a well thought-out idea here, but I would really love to get away from grades somehow, or do grading differently. Here’s how I think it’s damaging. Most students focus on the grade, even those that say they don’t, the grade is a form of feedback that tells them how well they did, so they take something from it. So students can be either crushed because they internalize what a grade says about their ability (mea culpa) or they can become overly confident cause they follow the letter of the assignment but not the spirit. Later, they get crushed. Worse, they might not learn the material.

I am blessed with students who, honestly, I think, would do the work without the grade. If everyone made it through the class, could I just give them all A’s? Doesn’t seem quite fair when you look at it that way, because some people might do just the bare minimum and others would go beyond. It seems like those who do more should be rewarded in some way. And this is my main struggle. How do I reward those who don’t just check the boxes, who think outside those boxes? And how do I encourage everyone to want to do that? The idea is, I guess, to give As to those who go above and beyond. What I find, though, is that there’s a bit of an expectation to get an A for checking the boxes.

And what it might boil down to is that grades aren’t enough for some students, and they’re discouraging for others. And it’s definitely discouraging for me.

The thing is, I like giving feedback. I write all kinds of things on my students’ work. I just wish I didn’t have to attach a grade to it. Some I’m in search of two things: a better way to motivate my students to do their best work and a new way of providing good feedback on work they do.

6 Replies to “Grading sucks”

  1. When I moved from teaching 4th/5th grades to 1st one of the best things I discovered was that the kiddos don’t think about grades at all. Everything they do is either for the joy of learning and doing or to please me. I work really hard to keep it focused on the joy part. My oldest is now a fourth grader. I am pained by the weight she puts on grades. This is in spite of all we’ve said and done to show that we don’t value the grades, we value her learning. There has to be a better way.

  2. I wish I had a series of sliders for each student to drag, for starters, my list might look like this.

    thinks out of the box (creativity)
    mastery of material

    trying to collapse all this down to a single, quantized value is the most difficult and trying task I do as a teacher.

  3. That self-direction piece I find to be particularly important. I am fine when students ask for help, but sometimes they ask for too much help or don’t know to ask for help at all. I’m still sorting out how much of that students are capable of in high school

  4. Although I understand all of the worries of grading, I also think that grading is a useful learning motivator for some children, and that ignoring it completely causes some children to not meet their learning level and others to reach for irrelevant means of comparing themselves with others (speed, for example). So, I don’t think teachers/schools can get completely out of the business of grading.

    We chose to keep our kiddo in the school that doesn’t grade, because I do worry that with grades, she would modify her behavior purely to reach grading standards (even when they interfered with the best learning). But, I do know there are other kids in her school who have thrived by having feedback, in the form of grades, about their work.

  5. I agree with the quiz taking and test taking in class to make sure the person crasp on to the information. to see what a person has learned so far from the professor teaching. take for an example teachers that grades papers they may be in a rush to the point where they may make a mistake on a student paper, by marking something wrong they had right. if a teacher review well in class then its no problem with having quizes or test.

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