Grades are evil. There, I said it. Somebody had to take a stand... might as well be me.
Why are grades bad? Let's count the reasons:
1. Grades represent a form of extrinsic motivation (doing something simply for a reward). Extrinsic motivators always result ina reduction of intrinsic motivation (doing something because you genuinely enjoy it). When we are rewarded with extrinsic rewards, the effectiveness of the reward as a motivator decreases with time. When we're rewarded with intrinsic motivators, there is no decrease in motivation over time. This is why job satisfaction decreases over time- you're doing it for money (extrinsic reward). How many of us have ever had a job we came to hate? We hated it because we were doing it for a paycheck, not because we enjoyed the activity. Compare that to volunteering. In the absence of extrinsic motivators (i.e.- money), intrinsic motivation flourishes. Volunteering never gets old because our motivation doesn't decrease over time.
2. It reminds us we're less than perfect. You have a ceiling- typically 100%. Anything below that ceiling is a failure to some degree.
3. Grades are subjective, even when they appear to be objective. The teacher ultimately determines the grades. Even if a class is graded on purely objective tests (like multiple choice), the tests themselves were created using subjective means. Ultimately this results in the teacher (or test creator) essentially assigning grades.
4. Grading is a game that can be infinitely manipulated. Most teachers set the difficulty of their class to produce grades that are high enough so parents don't complain and low enough so administrators don't complain.
5. Grading cannot measure the qualities that make people successful... unless your definition of success is someone that earns good grades. Don't believe me? Check out this study.
6. Tests are not well-constructed because test design is a complicated matter. I can guarantee the vast majority of teachers do not consider reliability and validity when making a test. What to learn more? Read through this Powerpoint before you design your next test.
7. Numbers are a horrible way to communicate complex human experiences like learning. Some will claim grades can be used as a means of determining understanding. Really? This idea assumes kids will always give their full effort on a test and the test will accurately measure understanding. Let's face it- we like grades because it's a shortcut. It allows us to classify students in a time-efficient way.
My solution- we eliminate grading across the board. In my opinion, the cost of assigning grades cannot justify the convenience or supposed benefits. What are your thoughts on grades?