Friday, October 22, 2010

Bureaucracy (and grading) sucks

With every school year I rediscover my hatred of grading systems. I do not believe that they provide motivation for students to do well, nor do they do anything for students’ confidence, either in their selves or in others. As a high school student I was concerned almost only about grades, but as a college student I quickly came to the realization that they are almost worthless. School should be about understanding and becoming able to accomplish things properly, not about meeting minimum standards solely for evaluation.
The problem with grades is that they are a one chance deal. Students cannot be expected to understand something on the first try, and when we are shown to be wrong we are expected to understand where we made our mistakes with little or no explanation. Furthermore, we are expected to not make the same mistake in the future. With no chance to correct ourselves and our mistakes already taken into account against our understanding (and attainable grade), there is no chance for redemption and being credited for understanding why we were wrong in the first place.
Additionally, grades are subjective. In a department with three teachers dividing up work with crossover in grading there is bound to be (and has proven to be) discrepancy in expectations. Say for instance I am taking this class that has a speech. One professor grades the rough draft, providing feedback on grammar, while another grades the speech itself taking into account content. If content is part of the evaluation, one would think that I, the writer of the speech, would receive feedback on the relevancy of the content with the rough draft. Rather, the professors provide no feedback but still expect to evaluate quality of content, basically demolishing my final grade, even though the presentation of the speech was almost entirely from memory while others read the majority of theirs off paper and got near perfect grades. As a result of my inquiry into the matter, the sheet explaining our second speech explicitly states that feedback will not be provided on rough drafts, yet in the grading rubric content makes up a large portion of the presentation evaluation.
Speaking of expectations, classes are often not organized in a way that allows for adequate preparation or material retention. Say you’ve got, hmm, three teachers (guess how many I have) who divide the teaching load so each specializes in certain material, but the prioritization of the teaching is mixed between content areas. That naturally makes for confusing test preparation and crossover of homework. Surely students can do well preparing for a massive test when they have piles of homework for the next chapter due right beforehand. Or hey, let’s have students draft up a whole five minute speech to turn in a day before the first half of a three hour long, two day midterm test! GREAT IDEA! As a student I feel perfectly capable of writing up a wonderful speech and preparing adequately for a midterm test and still managing to not go completely bonkers (end sarcasm). There’s little to no time for relaxing the mind, being able to retain material, and then be ready to begin absorbing more, and we are supposed to be held to a grade over this?
Education should be about relaying information in an effective manner and facilitating the understanding and improvement of the learner. Personally, grading does little more than demolish my confidence. If there is anything I hate most, it is judgment, and grading is a one chance judgment call which is intended to represent the ability of the graded. I couldn’t care much less about my grades, but when I am asked to write a speech about an interesting debate, you bet I’m going to turn it right around and explain to you why the whole shebang is ridiculous while making an effort to prove to you why I’m not inadequate.
Though I doubt it will make you think any differently.
Bureaucracy sucks.
Let us reprioritize the learning in education.

Much of this train of thought will be translated and used as part of my speech for Japanese class. I apologize for the weak organization of writing, but I hope that you can appreciate and come to agree with the overall message in this piece on account of the voice I have expressed. While this is instigated largely on account of recent events, the message still applies in the long run, both past and future and holds roots in many other similar experiences.

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