Paul L. Caron

Monday, August 12, 2019

Grades Can Hinder Learning. What Should Professors Use Instead?

Chronicle of Higher Education, Grades Can Hinder Learning. What Should Professors Use Instead?:

Grades are among education’s most recognizable symbols, up there with chalkboards and graduation gowns. Plenty of instructors use them for years without ever wondering why.

But let’s take a moment and ask. Why grade? To give students feedback, a professor might say. To measure learning. To motivate. 

Here’s the problem: Decades of research undercuts these assumptions. ... [S]tudies have found that [grades] reduce students’ interest in what they’re learning. They make students more risk-averse, less curious, and more prone to focus on their performance instead of the task at hand. Grades tempt students to cut corners, including by cheating. They position students and professors as adversaries. They make it harder for students to think for themselves. ...

It can be hard, though, to criticize a system that rates you, personally, as a big success. That’s true for students at selective colleges. And it’s especially true for their professors, who have been in the system longer — and have made it to the top.

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