Re: grades

!Maureen Fitzpatrick (mfitzpat@JCCCNET.JOHNCO.CC.KS.US)
Wed, 28 Aug 1996 10:18:52 -0500

Grades and judgment are not synonymous--in fact it's when students think they
are that their attitude gets them in trouble. Part of a grade might be a
judgment, out of necessity or tradition, but most of it comes from meeting a
set standard. When a child reaches where Goofy's hand is pointing, is "Space
Mountain "grading" him? No, it's saying this kid is ready for what comes next.
Unfortunately, traditional grading tries to put Goofy after the ride to say
how well the kid rode it. (I'm sorry--it's insanely extended metaphor day for

The non-verbal grades you speak about are, in some cases, not permanent (a
reasonably good teacher will come back to the student later on so that the
student can get a positive response), and in some cases completely foreign to
the object of a graded class. If you think of a job application of as a grade,
then you have to think of it as a grade in a class where the instructor gives a
minimal outline of requirements, no assistance, and where the criteria is
arranged so that 99% to 99.6% of the class will fail and one will get the "A."
If students think of a job application as a job hunt, they'll be horribly
depressed in two weeks--you have control over grades, but not over other things
you want.

I think you're right when you say that grades are a part of the greater social
forces that we live with--people have always wanted to label people and pocket
them into nice little groups. The students grades motivate (in my experience)
are the ones who want to be in one of those labeled groups. But I'd rather
have students that tell me that their goal in my class is to write more clearly
than one who tells me that their goal is to get an "A."

Maureen Fitzpatrick

From: Mike Jackman <m0jack01@HOMER.LOUISVILLE.EDU>
Sent: Tuesday, August 27, 1996 6:56 PM
To: Multiple recipients of list RHETNT-L <>
Subject: Re: grades

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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...The power of instruction is seldom of much efficacy,
except in those happy dispositions where it is almost superfluous.
---Edward Gibbon