Prep Room Discussions and Grading

I originally posted this on a Ning site that we use for classroom discussions in my Educational Psych class. Today there was an interesting discussion in the English/social studies prep room at my school. Someone brought up how grades were posted, and that most teachers posted them by student number (essentially alphabetically). One teacher though posted them that way and then highlighted in one colour those getting As, and in another colour those failing. A second teacher posts his grades sorted by grade. This lead to a discussion of the purpose of grades. Grades seem to be a motivation for students. But what we decided on was that it wasn’t just the grade, it was the competition for the grade. Competition was the motivator, not grades. I brought up that I felt it was doing a disservice to the students to assume that they can’t be intrinsically motivated. I said that in a Pass/Fail system students may start to loose their grade focus, and instead compete for doing individual assignments better than others, giving students for whom competition is the motivator more frequent chances for reward from their competition, rather than competing solely for the final grade. It’s an interesting thought about what motivates our students to do well. I think that if grades are the main motivator, then we as members of the education system have failed them. But really, think about it. What is the purpose of a grade?

  • Darcy King

    Just to be clear, while I do highlight the A’s and F’s, and only by student number, a further precaution is taken. The student names are randomly scrambled each time list is posted (never the same random scramble) to help ensure the privacy of the students. Thus not essentially alphabetically. Finally, while agree if marks are the only motivation then there are issues, if it helps even one student succeed, without hurting other students, then more power to grades and posted grades.

  • admin

    Ahhh very cool. I didn’t know you could randomly scramble the numbers. I haven’t been able to figure out the program enough to do that yet.

    Actually, over the time I’ve been here and actually teaching (which I hadn’t done much of when I posted that), I’ve come to change my mind on grades. I think that grades are a much more subtle motivation than I thought they were. I think that you are right in that it doesn’t hurt the students, and those who are grade motivated will use it. Thus it helps some and doesn’t hurt or even affect others.

    Also, by the way, I actually like the system you use. I think that it is an added reminder to students. I’ve noticed that the students who are failing my classes are the ones who don’t hand things in. Perhaps having that highlighted so they can notice whenever they walk by might encourage them to hand in their missing assignments.

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