A RhetNet SnapShot Reply:


Kevin Davis

Just had to speak up on the grading issue. I turned primary grading responsibility over to students about ten years ago. There were several reasons:

  1. Philosophy. Piaget said so. One of the higher stages of learning, if I recall, is self evaluation. So why shouldn't we shoot for the highest?
  2. Reality. Students graded themselves anyway. Anytime they receive a surprise grade, they say "Old so&so gave me a C!" Which implies, of course, that they would have given themselves something else, which means that they had already "graded" themselves. I merely ask them to tell me first.
  3. Practicality. As a writer of everything from articles to poems to e-mail to committee reports, I have to self monitor. I can't wait for an evaluation and then go on. Student writers have to develop this metat-cognitive awareness, too.
  4. Learning. I reasoned, as Eric has, that grades cause desperation, which causes cheating. A grade-free system promotes learning.
  5. Process. If writing is truly a process, then students have to have the freedom to work through drafts as they see fit. Sometimes this means a single draft; sometimes it means dozens of drafts. Other times, it means discarding a draft of "unworthy" or "undoable."
  6. Freedom.

In a final self evaluation, students analyze each of their portfolio pieces, putting a number grade on each piece. When I read the portfolios, I score the pieces one at a time, saving the self evaluation for last. Then I compare my scores. In the last five years, 96% of student-applied numbers have been within 3 points of my own numbers. When there's a greater discrepancy, the self evaluation explains to me their position; they're usually so sensible that I go along.


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