A RhetNet SnapShot Reply:
THE GRADING VORTEX
I'd love to hear more about the class you taught where the writing was mostly collaborative. What kind of class was it? Who were the students? I would love to figure out a way not to use grades, though I don't think the public or state legislators will ever buy it as a legitimate option. I also wonder what to do with students who don't try or aren't able to reach a certain level of competence. How do you know that if the work is all collaborative? I don't mean to sound critical; I just really want to know how you deal with these issues in such a class.
When I was an undergraduate in the early 70s, the classes in which students were allowed to collaborate on their grades were considered the no-brainer classes. The professors had the reputation of not really being engaged in their classes, and the students didn't always feel like they learned much. Those who took such classes took them for an easy A. I never enrolled in one of those classes because I didn't think I could or would be honest about what grade I thought I had truly earned.
I have taken very few classes where I thought I was given a grade other than the one I earned. I can only think of one class where I got a grade lower than the one I thought I should get. I have taken several classes where I received a grade higher than the one I thought I should have gotten. In those classes, I thought the professors hadn't taught me very much, and I was certain they hadn't really read the papers I had written.
Thanks for elaborating your ideas about grades and power structures. Sometimes I think students are the biggest proponents of that power structure. Giving students power means they have to assume many more responsibilities, and lots of young people aren't always ready for such responsibilities, and they will tell you so.
Eric, I believe your ideas about education would be very realistic if all our students were older, more motivated students. But much of what I find myself doing in the classroom is trying to convince students of the importance of taking on the responsibility for their own education and encouraging them to want to move on to the next project. Many students probably have no idea of what they really want to tackle until long after they've left an educational institution.