Estimated reading time: 1 minute, 36 seconds

Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

The Courage to NOT Grade


Estimated reading time: 1 minute, 36 seconds

I’m drumming up the courage to not grade, like I have been wanting to do for years. But I was co-teaching and this semester I’m not. So…some degree of freedom (and risk).

I read a post by Jesse Stommel the other day, and saw incidentally a discussion in a private mailing list (UK-based) about the grading of 70-100% vs 7/10…. 

And this was my response to them, which I thought I would post on my blog (and I’ll later report back on how I ended up doing this in class…implementing a version of Jesse’s approach). 

Anyway – here was my email response:

Coming from a country (Egypt) where 70% is akin to a “C”, and Teaching in an edu system where an A is 92+ (American system)…[so unlike the UK system]

I’m just going to say that for the most part, all these numbers are arbitrary

I’d rather do what Jesse Stommel does and not grade

And in fact, my MEd at U of Sheffield had no grades. Just a combination of peer, self and tutor assessment on criteria that were partly developed together and partly developed by each student on her own submissions.

I really like Peter Elbow’s work on this – on removing the nitty gritty of many scales and instead just letting a learner get meaningful feedback – either they’re doing well, they’re totally not getting it, or they need improvement. That’s pretty much what learners need to know. The difference between a 75 and a 78 can be really meaningless.

…unless we’re talking MCQs in a science test where there truly are right and wrong answers and 100% is attainable. Is it too radical to say that areas of study where 100% is attainable (on every single assessment) may need to revise their assessments? And that areas of study where 100% is never attainable should not be judged numerically anyway, but qualitatively?


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