Re: grades

Mike Jackman (
Tue, 27 Aug 1996 23:56:30 +0000

Sorry I missed the discussion on media moo tonight. I arrived when
everything was breaking up, but I look forward to reading the

I find this discussion fascinating. At one time I was more adamantly
against grading than now, and now I find myself reconsidering. The
discussion has started a lot of "internal threads". For instance, I
realize I have one set of expectations when I teach creative writing
and another when I teach comp, I think because creative writing
doesn't have the same onus on it for proving and certifying literacy
for the administration. I'd never considered that extrinsic rewarding
of behavior causes a deterioration of behavior when the reward is
removed. I find that my academic interest in my field is actually
blossoming when I was done with graduate classes and could pursue
more of my interests on my own time. This experience, while it is
different than the expected behavior, reinforces the idea that
grading can stand in the way of intellectual interest and

One one hand, it's kind of ironic that a society with one of the more
liberal college admissions policies in world education should
question grading so much - is it *because* we are so liberal, or
because we are really not as liberal as we seem?

To extend the metaphor of grading - is non-verbal behavior a grade?
A teacher's shake of the head or spoken "No, that's not right" to a
student a bad grade? Is a job interview rejection a grade? If grade
rubrics are eliminated, aren't we still "graded" (judged) all the time in all
aspects of our lives? So in a sense, perhaps it is better to teach
persistence and confidence in the face of bad grades, humility
and skepticism in the face of good grades, of any kind, in any
situation. Paradoxically, a grading system gives you something to
work with to teach these lessons, and as long as an instructor's
discretion is preserved, grade appeals allowed. Isn't grading
a reflection of greater social forces we might live with?

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-Mike Jackman email:,
home page:
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...The power of instruction is seldom of much efficacy,
except in those happy dispositions where it is almost superfluous.
---Edward Gibbon