Why is grading such an important part of education? I have many thoughts on this, but the main factor, if you look deep enough, is that grades make academic life easily ‘quantifiable.’ Why would a liberal education of the ‘humanities’ want to be quantified? To measure outcomes by technocratic, neoliberal economic standards rather than mutual learning in dialogue? Let’s ask some more questions and re-think how humans learn and teach in the humanities…
My name is Dan Curtis-Cummins and I am a writing teacher in my third year at SFSU. I have always struggled with the question I posed above, with mixed feelings about the necessity of rewarding work and effort with a high stakes grade. What is particularly compelling is the argument that traditional grading reinforces racist practices lurking in the fabric of our educational systems. According to authors like Inoue and others, conventional grading is oppressive, particularly when the teacher is white and the students are not, which can unintentionally make the educational process one of violence for many students. I would rather that students focus on developing their interests and their voices, with feedback from me based on the assignment, genre, audience, and purpose, to help prepare them as writers in their majors and in life; to give them options as writers in the future, without the pressure of the grade. In short, I would rather that the feedback and growth be separated from a value judgment.
I have come to realize this semester that a major obstacle in student writing growth is the pressure and judgment of the grade, whereas a ‘holistic’, labor-based system would reward practice and effort, and revision based on feedback. When I implement my new ‘holistic’ grading model next semester, I hope to relieve the stress of grades off the learning environment of the class by making ‘the deal’ clear.
This blog is an extension of my last essay(s) with new student perspectives on the question through my VIDEO SURVEY (see above). This wordpress site is a (mostly complete) MODEL ESSAY 3 DIGITAL REMIX and PORTFOLIO for my ENG 214 class.