The Grading Game

Since elementary school, I have always known grades to be important. I was a keener most of my young adult life; chasing after A’s and beating myself up over anything less. Looking back, I was more concerned about winning this ‘rat race’ we call the grading system than learning anything. Many will argue that higher grades do reflect the ambition and the desire to learn, but, looking at the bigger picture, it is more of a distraction from a deeper learning process. If we want truly to create a sustainable and equitable education system, we need to move on with this generic grading system and end these grade wars.

The classic grading system has been around for since the 19th century and is the only tool used to measure a student’s achievements and award them on their efforts. Students who stay bound within the confines of this metric system, through assignments and tests, earn the benefits of a system that treats grades like some currency. This rigorous system leaves students with suppressed creativity, reinforcing a negative climate with nothing but competition, academic dishonesty and anxiety.

It would be entirely unfair to say that the grading system is the root of all evil. As a student who has benefited from good grades (not phenomenal grades), I couldn’t have imagined where I would have been without them. As a child, I was an average student who struggled to maintain a high average through elementary school, and as I moved to high school and on to postsecondary education, focusing on maintaining a high average did give me an opportunity to attend the DeGroote School of Business at McMaster University; one of a number of prestigious Universities in Canada.

This article, however, is trying to turn the focus on students at the other end of the spectrum; students who may have had a bad year or just have not had the chance to recuperate from said bad year. That is unfair. This has created an emergence in learning avenues such as Udemy, Coursera and MIT’s OpenCourse. These programs do not necessarily benefit students through credits; however, it does give people a chance to learn. An ideal avenue for individuals looking bounce back up from their slump.It is also irrational to imagine an education system entirely without a grading system. What can change is the attitude our teachers and professors take to ensure the material is being passed on to keen learners in the most efficient way possible.

It is also irrational to imagine an education system entirely without a grading system. What can change is the attitude our teachers and professors take to ensure the material is being passed on to keen learners in the most efficient way possible.

Alternative forms of assessment do need to be in place such as written feedback, one on one interactions and peer collaboration. If teachers/professors want to ensure students are prepared for the future, students need to understand how they are developing, how to keep improving and how to work with others. Transitioning from a place where the grading system turns into a worthwhile investment in learning. We need to find a system to turn the ‘well-trained’ into the ‘well-educated’.

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