A RhetNet SnapShot Reply:
THE GRADING VORTEX
Fascinating discussion. The bottom line with grades (and I think most of us are saying this), is that they are 'necessary' for motivation, that without grades many of our students (not all) would not do the 'work.' Eric's point, and the way formal learning is going to have to go, albeit in a much different learning environment than we have now, is that we must recognize how debilitating to learning itself a coercive learning environment is, and how grades gnaw at any learning experience. We are going to have to find other motivators than grades. Those who poo poo the idea of getting rid of grades say that there are no other motivators. Others (and I am one) say there are. We just haven't worked it out yet, but discussions like this one are contributing greatly to that working it out.
The biggest problem is confronting 12-15 years of schooling that has implanted grades as the ONLY reasonable motivation for working in school in students. THEY indeed are the biggest resisters to portfolio and gradeless approaches, but that's because we (the system) have impressed the end-and-all of grades upon them.
Computers and networks provide us a glimpse of a way out, for they so drastically alter the learning environment that simply by being used they signal to students that a new ballgame is about to take placc, that old expectations are about to be set aside. Then our colleagues turn upon us, for we are implicitly challenging their practices, sometimes a lifetime of instructional practices. It will be years before gradeless formal learning is adopted by people other than Eric and Judi and other adventurous souls, but the sheer NEED for lifelong learning, and the accompanying need for flexible formal learning situations, will surplant coercion as the principal motivator in all but the most prison-like learning environments.