I got my grades in today. Quite nice. Of course, I had to laugh at myself for my overeagerness to know what I earned--even though I was fairly certain that I did well--but there is something about actually seeing the grades on the screen that is calming and reassuring. I've always liked making good grades, and it was only in the semester that I decided I would settle for a B in a class that I learned that they didn't really matter much.
Not too much, anyway, because they are still influential factors in my life. I like seeing an A at the end of my assignments, the confirmation that I am intelligent and capable. We've been discussing the grading system and how it makes unreasonable demands of certain types of students. Do we have a better way, however, to assess student learning? Shevek in LeGuin's The Dispossessed abhors the grading system when he is on Urras, so he decides to give all the students the same grade because he sees them as arbitrary anyway. The students protest: how are you to separate the good students from the mediocre and poor ones?
Is that what our current system does? Does it provide a ranking system of students who meet the teacher's expectations and the ones who do not? In that case, can grades be a true assessment of student learning? What about the students who do not thrive in a system that is competitive and driven by this arbitrary structure? Can we find a place for them without crushing them?
Grade inflation is a worry among universities, but I read a retort: if most students at elite universities are not making high grades, wouldn't that be more cause to worry than the fact that most students score highly? Is it truly grade inflation then? Do we need a system that dictates only a certain percentage is capable of high achievement?
Even as all these questions pepper my mind, I still feel the calm, glowing satisfaction of having my hard work arbitrary rewarded by a certain letter--A--and a certain number--4.0. Is that bad? Or am I just one of those students who thrives under the current grading system?