Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Grading, Assessment, and Feedback

Grading is an issue. It really probably shouldn't be an issue, but it is. I think much of the issue hinges upon a complete unawareness of the purpose of grading.

When I think back about my personal realization of grades, I believe I became distinctly aware that it was a rating system, designed to determine who was smart and who was not, before I ever thought that grading expressed how well I might know or understand a concept.

In a very real sense, these are the dominant reasons for grades: sorting students in such a way that a grade A student is better than a grade B student, and using grades to determine whether a student has mastered or learned a concept.

Of the two, I much prefer the latter. People get sorted enough, often of their own doing, without needing grades to mark the differences. Honestly, as one student may need more time to complete a task that another can do faster, the reality is that both students can complete the task and therefore have somewhat equal reasoning skills. It is only that one is faster.

Okay, faster is better in some situations. But slow and steady is also good. Sometimes, it is better to take one's time. But I'm way off the topic.

The topic is still, "What is the purpose of grades?" I believe this is an important question that every faculty of every school has to answer and agree upon, for then every practice regarding grading will be founded upon this belief. And that will be a good thing.

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