FROM DEGRADING TO DE-GRADING:
Basic Questions About Assessment
Research has found three consistent effects of traditional grades: students think less creatively, they lose interest in what they’re learning, and they try to avoid challenging tasks. Thus, rather than trying to improve techniques for grading, we should be looking for alternatives — and rather than complaining that too many students are getting A’s, we should be worried that too many students think that getting A’s is the point of school. Ultimately, though, why we evaluate students is at least as important as how we do so. Even alternative assessment may fall short if the point is to sort students or “motivate” them to get a particular rating. Alfie Kohn discusses how feedback can be constructive and informational, part of a learner-centered environment, as well as strategies by which teachers can minimize the harms of letter and number grades while they still exist.