I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the idea of grades and specifically why we assign a number to a student’s outcome in our class. It hasn’t been until the recent past that I really started to wonder why we define our students by a number rather than all of the progress and feedback that is given them throughout the semester. What do these numbers truly mean? Does it tell us how much knowledge they’ve acquired? Does it tell us how well they’ve taken in our curriculum? What do these numbers really mean?
I think it’s an interesting question as my hypothesis is that we would get a multitude of answers to this question. So then it leads me to thinking about the standards. What are standards? How do we define excellence? How do we define failure? Why is failure something that we feel bad about? Why isn’t it something we’re celebrating? So my mind has been just spinning out of control in considering these ideas.
And then I asked my students.
Today I asked my students to think about what would they want to see in their ideal education system. I got some really interesting answers but the one I wanted to discuss in this post is the idea that so many students feel badly when it comes to grades. They don’t find learning fun; it’s stressful for them as they are judged by a number. The numbers have meaning and in many cases, make the feedback and comments seem irrelevant. It bothers me learning is reduced to a number and in turn, that learning becomes stressful. Why are we doing that to such an amazing aspect and quality of human life?
My students are amazing people. I feel so blessed to have a job where I get to work with them, but what I’m hoping is that in the future we will have an education system where students feel excited if things don’t work out. They will be problem-solvers, think about how they can constantly improve, think about how they can deepen their learning, and think about how they can share their passions with others.