Green Squiggly Lines:

Giving Up "'Uneducated' Ways To Become Scholars Like Us"

In a report on his experiment with a negotiated curriculum and learning contracts at the College of Staten Island, CUNY, Ira Shor (1996) explores how the evaluative power of grades can disrupt an attempt to make learning more democratic and more student-centered (pp. 61-101). He critiques the inequalities created by both qualitative and quantitative methods of grading (pp. 83-86) and lists possible alternatives to traditionally teacher-centered methods of assessment (pp. 86-87). While he opposes "grading because it separates students from teachers - and students from each other - dividing people into competitive grade-seekers when they should be collaborating," Shor admits to the students that he does "not have the power to abolish this requirement now" (p. 87) and so can only offer his "commitment to be fair and open-minded and to give them the option to rewrite for a higher grade" (p. 87). In some ways, Shor's ideas have a parallel in Eric Crump's view of students' defiant and burlesque language use in MOOs.

As part of Shor's experience with power sharing in the writing classroom, he also acknowledges the students' "right to complain … as well as the teacher's obligation to listen and defend his judgment" (p. 87). Shor's negotiation around the process of grading-if not of the grades themselves-moves the reading, evaluating and responding process away from a teacher-centered model of writing assessment toward a negotiated or dialogized process of assessment. The process of "grading" becomes publicly negotiated. The teacher has to explain how he or she decides what is an A, B, C, D, or F. This activity "rhetoricizes" authority. That is, it makes the teacher and the students investigate the criteria and the power behind grades in an arena of public discourse.