Re: grades

Jeffrey R Galin (galin+@PITT.EDU)
Mon, 2 Sep 1996 12:42:10 -0400

Congrats on being part of a system that has deemphasized grades in
favor of evaluation. Must be wonderful to work there. As Ted Nellen
noted, however, your evaluations still function as grades outside of your
institution and probably for your students within Evergreen. All I am
saying is that the functions of ranking that grades serve in most
institutions has shifted in yours. People outside of the institution
still think in terms of rank. therefore, your system has probably
achieved a relative degree of success within a smaller unit, but has not
escaped the epistemology of grades.

But this may be what Marcy is trying to argue. If more and more
systems could move toward what Evergreen has accomplished, then we could
potentially transofrm the system. Even still, the positivism that
flourished at the turn of the century, that gave living breath to the
social sciences, determines too much of our epistemological base for the
outward change in evalutation structures to eliminate the spectre of
grades. This doesn't mean we cant try, nor help to shift the regime of
truth that governs our thinking. It does mean though that the process
will be slow, painful and frustrating.

Nothing like a happy note to celebrate Laborday. As excited as I
get in the classroom and with what computer texhnology has made possible,
it is a wonder that exciting stuff can happen in light of my philosophical
perspective on educational reform. I'm sure that is how it must seem from
my ramblings of the last two days. In fact, the reality check that my
research has afforded me has done just the opposite from what one might
expect. Though I am not yet at a place that I feel comfortable with my
teaching, I've had the best classes ever over the past year. Go figure.


On Sun, 1 Sep 1996, Tom Maddox wrote:

> Jeffrey Galin wrote:
> >The fact is Marcy, that we live in a highly competitive capitalistic
> >society that is driven by an epistemology of ranking, of naming, of
> >quantifying. To argue that grdes and evalution are incompatible and
> >therefore mutually exculusive is to argue that teaching and learning in
> >our current instututions are impossible. We all know this is not the
> >case. We also know that much more effective teaching and learning could
> >be going on. Within our society, there is next to no evaluation wihtout
> >grading. Why pretend that the academic institution is so rarified that it
> >can move above the epistemology within which it is grounded?
> Just a point of fact: I agree that we live in such a society, but it is
> not yet an utterly monolithic one. For instance, I am writing director at
> an institution (Evergreen State College) that does not give grades but does
> give narrative evaluations, and we've done quite well by any standards I
> would care to invoke. Graduate schools like our portfolios, as do
> professional schools, and, more to the point, we do some very interesting
> writing teaching without grading *in a state college*.
> So it can happen. Academic institutions don't have to mercilessly serve an
> epistemology of ranking and quantifying. That they often do is a fact of
> life, but a contingent, not a necessary one--like suburban sprawl or the
> Marlboro Man.
> I don't know whether institutions like Evergreen will ever be more than
> anomalies among vast congeries of grading factories, but I know where I
> want to work, and, more to the point, I know what I want to work *for*, and
> that includes teaching and evaluating without grading.
> Tom Maddox

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