Even Higher Ed gets the uselessness of grades

002hampshirefjgaylor-copyThe most oft-repeated response to progressive grading practices is that we need to “prepare students for college” where, it would seem, they will be battling one-on-one in academic arenas of combat.  Or something.

In reality, even colleges and universities are starting to become more aware of the consequences of using a single letter (or number) represent student mastery.  They see that developing responsible and productive citizens requires a culture of feedback and self-improvement.  They recognize that this comes from providing students with more just a grade, but instead a more detailed “evaluation”.  Case in point: Hampshire College.

In a recent opinion piece in The Hechinger Report, Hampshire President Jonathan Lash explains how his college got rid of meaningless grades.  He lays out the case for this change, and explains some of the pushback from the school community.  His most powerful statement, though, comes when he discusses the benefits of the “narrative evaluation” system that Hampshire College professor use,

“In narrative-evaluation systems, students never have to worry about accumulating a GPA. Instead, they focus on the quality of their work, with guidance from teachers who are often learning with them. Evaluations create closer relationships between teacher and student and enhance the teacher’s role as mentor.”

That’s a relationship that any educator—at any level—would love to have with his students.  And grades prevent that.

How do you think that college grading will change in the next decade or two?

photo credit: Hampshire College