Nowadays, there are totally different opinions on the necessity to measure students’ progress using grades. The majority of educators still stick to the conservative approach to the measurement of their students’ successes and failures. However, some educators support more revolutionary methods of results measurement.
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What is grading?
To start with, let’s provide a clear definition of the term “grading”. In education, it is the process of applying diverse measurement systems to track students’ achievements in a course. The first official grading took place at Yale in 1785. According to the records, this grading included the Latin words: optimi, inferiores (boni), pejores. Nowadays, educational institutions mostly use such grading systems as letters (from A to F), percentage (from 100% to 0%), numbers out of a possible total (100/100 to 1/100, etc.).
Advantages of grading
Of course, using grades has some positive aspects. Let’s quickly list them.
Using gradingsystems is the best and easiest way to provide students with the required feedback and introduce that they have room for future improvement.
- More opportunities for self-evaluation
Receiving grades on different activities and subjects makes it possible for students to evaluate themselves: understand their strengths, weaknesses, things to be improved. In fact, students’ self-evaluation gives them the potential to shape their further education and eventually their careers. As a rule, students select those fields of study where they feel there is more possibility for self-realization.
Why many educators are against grading?
Although it seems rational that grading is the best way to give feedback to students, many educators find it inappropriate and unnecessary. Here are some reasons grades are not so helpful in students’ endeavors evaluation.
- The focus is on grades
Grading systems make students focused on getting high grades instead of being focused on obtaining knowledge and skills. Students tend to forget the learned material once the grade is received. Numerous scientific studies have shown that grading students can be helpful while remembering something for a short period of time. However, the focus is placed on grades, not on developing an interest in the subject. Storing information in long-term memory requires higher levels of retention and more considerable interest in the subject, not just getting high grades.
- Fixed mindset and negative self-image
While being graded for their results, students may start to associate themselves with the marks they are receiving. Students may believe that these grades reflect who they really are: smart, stupid, lazy, etc. A negative self-image will only be a barrier to learn new skills and information since it limits their mental flexibility. Moreover, this fixed mindset can possibly force their unwillingness to take on challenging tasks.
- Negative effects on well-being
Negative self-image associated with unsatisfactory marks, sense of failure, unmet expectations lead to stress and anxiety, which decreases the general level of well-being. Nowadays, students are pushed to be achievers and feel the pressure to come up with the highest grades. The sense of pressure and competition also makes their life more stressful. Instead of simply acquiring the required skills and knowledge with pleasure and peacefulness, students have to meet the expectation coming from themselves, their teachers, parents, peers, and society. When they fall short to get the desired mark, they see it as a disaster that is badly influencing their sense of competence and self-worth. According to John McCartney, the manager of Pro-Papers, students often order dissertations and other types of academic papers because they are afraid of being a failure.
How can we evaluate students not using grades?
The absence of grading exists in many educational philosophies and systems. For example, the Montessori method does not include any grading since it is considered an external reward. According to the method, all external rewards do not have any lasting effect on students’ desire to learn and their motivation. Instead, the Montessori approach helps to increase a child’s inner motivation to learn. In other words, students learn for themselves and gaining skills thanks to the motivation that comes within. They do not do anything just to gain external rewards or their parents’ approval.
Instead of grading students, it is possible to provide them with periodical written or oral feedback. Ideally, a teacher tells the students about their strengths and weaknesses. Then the detailed step-by-step program of activities should be created and handed to a student for further improvements.
As can be seen, grades may have a negative effect on students since they create pressure, expectations, competition, and the wrong motivation to learn. However, it is a good tool for providing quick feedback. Although providing a mark is the easiest way to evaluate students, there are also other methods of providing feedback, e.g., written and oral feedback during the conversation with a student.