The case against grades

This is not my title I have stolen it from Alfie Kohn a long time promoter of the negative impacts that grades have on student learning. It is the title of the article that I am suggesting you should read if you have any interest in this topic.

The purpose of putting this article out there is not to suggest we should no longer use grades but to broaden our knowledge and understanding of what research says about such a deeply embedded policy in our educational system. By doing this we have a broader base of knowledge to then approach the issue in our own classrooms and at a whole site level.

Among other things the article covers the following:

  • Grades tend to diminish students’ interest in whatever they’re learning.
  • Grades create a preference for the easiest possible task.
  • Grades tend to reduce the quality of students’ thinking.

The following information (a quote from the article) was reinforced to us by Dylan Wiliam in week 2 this term.

“It’s not enough to add narrative reports.  “When comments and grades coexist, the comments are written to justify the grade” (Wilson, 2009, p. 60).  Teachers report that students, for their part, often just turn to the grade and ignore the comment, but “when there’s only a comment, they read it,” says high school English teacher Jim Drier.  Moreover, research suggests that the harmful impact of grades on creativity is no less (and possibly even more) potent when a narrative accompanies them.  Narratives are helpful only in the absence of grades (Butler, 1988; Pulfrey et al., 2011).”

To access the full article click here. The link can also be found on the Pedagogy page of this blog under Domain 2: Create safe learning conditions for rigorous learning.

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