Grading Degrades Performance LO17459

Richard C. Holloway (
Wed, 18 Mar 1998 14:01:43 -0800

Replying to LO17449 --

Alan--thanks for sharing this information. I've been sitting on my own
experiences in this continuing learning process on ranking, grading, etc.
Your reference brought this realization home to me as I read it.

I was much smarter as a child than I am today--some of the rest of you
reading this may have experienced the same phenomenon. One characteristic
of this youthful wisdom was the contempt in which I held many of the
people who were my teachers and school administrators. I recall
distinctly the unbridled enthusiasm I had for learning--and my disgust
when I found out how low the expectations truly were (this was a very
significant reason for my expulsion from pre-school; by elementary school
I was more adept at disguising my disgust).

Throughout secondary school (and even into undergraduate work), factoid
collection and measurment (remember analyzing obscure lines in what was
formerly beautiful poetry?) seemed the primary purpose for going to
school. >From just a few teachers, I found a similar passion for learning
(which they were rarely able to share in the midst of their daily ritual
of grading). They were great teachers, these few who shared this passion.

I had a similar contempt for the grading. This contempt was based on my
self-centered assessment of the person who was grading me. If my teacher
was incompetent, anti-intellectual, and biased toward the education system
which stunted learning, then what possible relevance did his or her
grading mean to me. A thorough examination of my grades would indicated
that I put this attitude into practice, except for a very few teachers.

In the workplace, I found a similar aversion to ranking. The best
feedback I ever got was from those persons whom I respected as competent,
capable and who facilitated my learning. The vast majority ranked me
based on their self-perception (usually skewed) of their own skills and
ability in relation to mine. Their feedback was generally unwelcome,
irrelevant and meaningless to my sense of growth. This was especially
true when they "gave" me a high ranking.

My interpretation of this process is that grading standards most often
reflect the relationships between participants in the grading process.
This is true in all social relationships (schooling, working, governing).
Introducing an independent variable into grading (standardized testing,
for instance) can still only serve to illustrate some aspects of these
relationships (which opens the testing outcomes to a variety of
interpretive analyses).

Now--if there were a way to assess "value added" or "contribution" to the
community or organization; or, for a student, comparatively from where I
was to where I am today (a process measurement), then we might have a
meaningful tool and use for ranking/grading. Hmmm? What would this look
like? Is this type of measuring occurring somewhere?

Alan--I didn't answer your questions (though I thought I would). I don't
know the answer to your questions. But you did help me generate my own



Alan Mossman wrote:

> Many of the research studies cited "show that improved formative
> assessment helps the (so-called) low attainers more than the rest, and so
> reduces the spread of attainment whilst raising overall standards."
> This raises two questions for me
> 1. how is that different from comparison to some ideal ? -- and
> 2. why, if we do, do we think adults are anything more than big kids ?


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