What if school didn’t have grades? What would be different? What would stay the same? How might this be better or worse than the way things are now?Their thoughts ran the gamut from verbal shrugs to fire-and-brimstone proclamations that abandoning grades would lead inevitably to Armageddon.
Among the responses (paraphrased and noted by yours truly during class conversation):
- Without grades, nobody will be motivated, and everyone will put in less effort.
- Why should students work hard if not for good grades? Aren't grades why we come to school?
- Students would enjoy lower stress.
- What would colleges do? How would they decide whom to admit?
- Without grades, teachers won't know how students are doing.
- Without grades, how will students know how they are doing? How will parents? (who often feel out of the school loop, outside of grade communication)
- There'd be no more tests and quizzes or, if there still were, students wouldn't care about them.
- Tests can still show what people know, independent of having grades attached.
- Maybe self and peer evaluation would become more important, but these methods have their own flaws.
- Some people go too easy or too hard on themselves when judging their own work.
- Social situations can bias peer evaluations. That's one reason mixing it up and not always getting feedback from the same person or people could be worthwhile.
- Teachers would still have evaluative parts to play, grades or no grades.
- Grades serve the purpose of identifying a "good" level of work.
- Poor grades signal mistakes that students can learn from. How will such growth unfold in the absence of grades?
- Ditching grades might provoke more creativity and risk taking in learners, but might also cause some students to pull up short of their potential.
- Spending less time grading and worrying about grades would benefit both students and teachers who would have more time for family and fun.
- What about middle ground -- not keeping grades exactly as they are, but also not throwing them out entirely?
I craved food for thought, and now I suspect my students and I won't go hungry for quite some time seeking shifty middle ground.