Assessment

I hate grading. I hate worrying about grades, I hate being measured by my grades, and I hate grading other peoples work as a TA. It offers such an interesting dimension into how well learning and teaching are taking place. On one hand, it should offer a generally objective way to assess all students, this should lead to less bias and more openness in how assessment is taking place. If there is a rubric, or clear point values, and extremely well thought-out value assigned to questions/assignments/work then it should be a really great measure. But there are so many assumptions that grades are based on that make the system totally broken. Most assignments, I believe, are pretty lazily written, syllabi are created in haste a week after the semester has started, and rubrics and questions can be unclear and graded by individuals who didn’t craft the assignment. I got so frustrated in grading that I was responsible for understanding exactly what the professor wanted them to know, exactly what the student is communicating on a page, and had to figure out a point value between those two things. There are some courses with a hundred hours of course work all graded throughout the semester that make up 50% of their grade, and then there are courses with one huge paper at the end that maybe takes 10 hours to write that is responsible for 60% of a grade. There are so many individual things that are supposed to be accounted for in a scale out of 100 that don’t make any sense. So, the objectivity objectively fails.

I said I really hate grading, but I love getting a good grade on something I worked hard on. I love getting a good grade because it feels like recognition. I love getting recognition because it feels like I was identified subjectively as good at something, knowledgeable about something, and the instructor knows that I am. Grading totally fails to do those things even if that’s what it feels like. But a system of individual assessment would be extremely bloated and inefficient, easily effected by bias, and in general wouldn’t work. It also becomes such a difficult balance in understanding what the instructor needs to teach their students and what the students can reasonably and reliably learn, and be held accountable for learning. It’s so hard in one system to both objectively assess all students, while still giving them recognition for their personal achievements and progress.

I think with grading, it’s a broken system that is in place, and isn’t going anywhere. Like any other broken system, the only thing people can do when they recognize this, is “game” it. This is really unfortunate because I think on the student side, gaming the system is usually easier with privilege. Understanding how a system works and being able to make gains from the shortcomings is definitely a central aspect of privilege. That’s why I think in some of the readings they suggest ways to game the system on the professors end, which typically consist of limiting the burden of grades. These ways like completion based grading measure amount of effort put in instead of a direct understanding, giving multiple opportunities on assignments also measure effort as well as some understanding, and relaxing due dates allows for less stress in getting something in at the exact time something needs to be in. I thing grading generally puts a burden on all, but as an instructor, they have the most power in finding a way to have students learn, have a generally accurate assessment, and encourage effort.

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