Grading and Its Discontents – You Are Not Your Grades

This post is the final in a series of four.  In his article entitled, “Grading and Its Discontents” (The Chronicle, July 11, 2012), Ahmed Afzaal reflected about grading in ways that you may find helpful when you are discontented with grading.  To find out how to minimize discontent, he asked his students for their thoughts on grading.  The responses led to several suggestions you can use in your teaching.  The first suggestion was posted in May, 2013.  The second was posted in June, 2013.  The third was posted in July, 2013.  Here is the fourth and final of Afzaal’s suggestions.

You are not your grades. I want my students to avoid defining themselves in terms of a grade. I want them to know that grades represent nothing more than someone’s assessment of one or more instances of their academic performance. Given the nature of the grading process and the limited purposes for which it is designed, the grades they receive are in no way a reflection of who they are as people or even what they are capable of achieving in the long run.

Grades do not represent an objective measure of students’ intelligence, capabilities, talents, or potential, nor do they capture the essence of their character, soul, or worth as human beings. An A in a particular assignment or a course does not make the recipient a worthy person, just as a D or an F does not make anyone an unworthy person.

In discussing these matters with my students, my aim is to reduce their grade-related anxiety as much as possible. I believe that when students see their grades as pieces of information, rather than as external rewards or punishments, or as mechanisms of control, they are much more likely to discover the joy that is inherent in the very experience of learning.

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