Grade Grubbers

There are two types of grade grubbers.  The first I like and even admire in a way.  These are the last minute--holy smokes--the semester's almost over and I'm tanking variety.  They have been lousy students all semester, but somehow, with two or three weeks to go, they pull themselves together and manage to land their hind ends just the other side of the C line. As a chronically-disorganized wool gatherer,  I identify and empathize with these students. 

The second type drives me to distraction.  These are students who have already earned an A, yet they obsessively contest every single point and become little syllabus lawyers.  Unfortunately, this is the point in the semester when both varieties of grubbers show up.

Ye gods, I loathe grades.  I would abolish them if it were in my power.  They corrupt the entire point of education.  In their place I would prefer a combination of instructor and student self-assessment.  In an ideal world, I would be given a set of students for a year.  I would meet with each one and we would craft a set of learning goals that we could both focus on over two semesters.  In place of a letter or a GPA would be a brief, narrative description of the student's progress on his or her learning goals and a statement of what still needs to be done.  Call it a performance review.  

I know, I know, there are a thousand reasons why this would never work in higher education.  It takes too much time. How would students transfer to other institutions?  What would grad schools look at for admissions?   People do love their numbers.  It doesn't matter that they are meaningless.  My dream system, on the other hand, would place the focus where it needs to be: on growth and development.  It would actually reflect the evaluative methods most people experience in their professional careers.  Better still, it would eliminate end-of-the-semester grade grubbing.

'Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.


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