I crossed the finish line, flags waving and emails sent. I’ll upload the grades on Friday, but all the grading is done. I generally enjoy writing comments and responding to student project, but I really dislike grading. As I teach more, I’ve wavered quite a bit in what I think about grading, but I tend to think it should just go. Gone.
Ken Bain’s What The Best College Teachers Do has a long section on grading. Bain suggests that grading at its best serves as a communication tool between teacher and student. He also explores some studies that consider grading often gets in the way of developing a perspective of learning among students.
…they have consistently found that most extrinsic motivators damage intrinsic motivation. That have also found that if they use “verbal reinforcement and positive feedback”–in other words, encouragement or praise–they can stimulate interest, or at least keep it from evaporating. (33)
If external motivation becomes the driving force behind the student’s desire to learn, the internal motivation wears away and then, when the student is no longer a student, the motivation isn’t there either. I know there’s a vast body of stuff written on this that I haven’t read yet, so I’ve still got some research to do. That said, here is one grading plan I’m considering using after I get tenure.
No grading at all. James Kincaid, author of Annoying the Victorians, apparently just gives everyone As regardless of what they do. I’m not sure if I’m willing to go this far, but perhaps another version of it would be like this:
“I will be giving you lots of feedback on your work in this class, but letter grades are not part of the evaluation mode. Thus, everyone who stays enrolled until the end of the semester gets a C automatically. Students who attend class regularly and turn in all the projects for the course earns an A automatically.”
The goal here would be to let me concentrate on giving comments and not grades. I would only keep track of whether projects were turned in or not. It puts the burden for motivation on our class, not on the grade. It also allows the students who literally don’t want to be there to just get the gentleperson’s C and never come back.
What grading methods do y’all use? Does anyone in my readership actively subvert the grading system? Do you worry about “grade inflation”? Should you?