by Kim Marshall, TIE columnist
In this article in All Things PLC, consultant/author Douglas Reeves confronts these widely espoused misconceptions about grading:
Myth #1: Grades motivate students. Grades may have motivated teachers and administrators when they were young, but that’s not the case with many of their students today. The evidence is right in front of our noses, says Reeves: We’ve just conducted a decades-long experiment on the efficacy of grades as motivators; if grades were effective motivators, homework completion, classroom engagement, and overall diligence would be sky-high. Not so!
Myth #2: Grading homework and practice improves achievement. There are three problems here, says Reeves. First, for practice to be an effective tool for improvement, students need to be pushing the limits of current performance and getting continuous feedback – very difficult to orchestrate for 30 students working in their bedrooms. Second, as soon as teachers give grades for practice work, the incentive is for students to play it safe and not push into challenging or unknown territory. “No one gets feedback that is meaningful,” says Reeves, “because the only feedback that matters is that the work was finished on time and correctly. No one gets feedback to improve specific skills because everyone is doing the same dreary and unchallenging work.” And third, it’s unfair and demotivating for students to have their final grade pulled down for practice work.
Myth #3: Grades drive future performance. True, there’s a correlation between good grades and college success, and between poor grades and dropping out of school, but Reeves questions whether grades cause success and failure. He cites “the ‘good girl effect’ in which female students are disproportionately rewarded for quiet compliance, behavior that may lead to good grades but does not necessarily correlate to success after secondary school… While it is possible that intelligence and work ethic forge the path from kindergarten to Ivy League and Wall Street, it is also possible that zip code, tutors, and connections – all artifacts of family socioeconomic status – are the underlying causes.”