The article “Why I don’t Grade” highlights the issues with the education system’s manner of adding a quantitative value to a student’s learning. Briefly states, the article considers grades to be the biggest and most insidious obstacle to education and states that “Agency, dialogue, self-actualization, and social justice are not possible in a hierarchical system that pits teachers against students and encourages competition by ranking students against one another(Stommel 2021)”. The viewpoint on grades expressed in this article is one that I tend to agree with. Although I think that it is important for students to ensure their students are learning the material that is taught during a class, I do not think that the most effective way of doing this is by assigning a quantitative value to it. Everyone learns in very different ways and for some people, having grades to an extent forces students to develop the ability to simply memorize information and regurgitate it when the next graded assignment arrives. A majority of the time, at least in my experience, a lot of this information is just forgotten after the graded assignment. A point made in the article that I really like is that teachers should be more concerned with how the students are doing with the material that is being taught rather than the grades they are receiving. If a student is struggling to learn the material it is more beneficial for them to have a teacher that can connect with them and help them through the struggle, rather than adding on the stress of grading assignments. Another point made in the article is that there are usually a lot of external factors at play when a student is struggling in a class. That being said, a teacher that presents themselves as only really caring about the grades a student is getting in the class will not be made aware of these external factors. I believe that in a school system, a teacher and student should work together to ensure the material is being learned and absorbed. Nowadays it feels like students and teachers are pitted against each other in a battle of wits where the teachers produce graded assignments that force students to memorize even the most redundant material.
One of the best examples of this comes from an experience I had my freshman year. I was taking a biology class and the professor very quickly claimed a reputation for asking questions that were so specific that you might as well have memorized every word in the textbook in order to do well. We were all miserable and spent countless hours preparing for his exams but to no avail. Every test there were several questions that received the response where the hell did this come from. We all barely passed the class but it was one of the worst class experiences I have had at Wake. On the contrary, in my junior class I was in a Spanish class where the professor was genuinely more concerned with her students actually learning the material rather than just receiving good grades.
In this spanish class we still had graded assignments but we had the opportunity to correct our mistakes for partial credit. For every question we got wrong we just had to find the correct answer and explain why our previous answer was wrong. I was much more comfortable in the class and felt more confident. At the end of the semester we had an interview with the teacher where we simply talked about the several topics covered in class instead of taking a final. My interview went super well and I was honestly surprised at how well I was able to remember the material we covered throughout the semester. After reading this article I realized that this was due to the teacher student relationship.
In the biology class, everything was a competition and the stress of trying to memorize everything was overwhelming. It was always a process of memorizing the information, taking the test, and then forgetting everything. At the end of the semester I remembered the occasional concept from each section, the complete opposite of my experience in the spanish class. I came to realize that my relationship with each professor directly impacted the outcome of how much I actually learned in the class. The class that focused on grades felt like a hellish waste of time and brain power, meanwhile the Spanish class that focused on our learning was a great investment and I still remember many of the things we learned to this day. Grades can be a useful tool for learning if used correctly but in today’s world of education that is not the case and they turn out to be more detrimental to our learning than anything.
Stommel, Jesse. “Why I Don’t Grade.” Jesse Stommel, Jesse Stommel, 11 June 2021, https://www.jessestommel.com/why-i-dont-grade/.