In this module we have been involved in student-centred learning, becoming independent learners by actively choosing topics of interest for our blogs. My central focus has been on evaluating the grading process. Grading is an integral part of the education system, yet its use is often questionable.
My initial blogs focused on the issues with grading, with the belief that with certain adjustments, the grading process could be improved. For example, there is a disparity between the subjective process of grading, and the ‘objective’ assessment produced (Kohn, 1994). Markers aren’t machines, and are subjected to a number of influences in the grading process (York, Bridges & Woolf, 2000). Therefore educators must decide whether to follow strict guidelines (or use automated marking) to obtain objectivity and reliability, or accept the subjectivity of grading, allowing students to surpass the mark scheme through novel creativity.
As I gained more insight into the unfavourable effects of grading, I realised I was naive to think that grades were an educational practice worth improving. Education should not focus on how to adjust grading, but question why we are even using it in the first place (Kohn, 1994). Creativity, student centred learning and treating students as individuals are concepts that have been identified over the semester as the building blocks of an effective learning environment. These principles could be implemented successfully in education, yet not alongside the current grading structures we have now. Grading stifles student’s creativity (Kohn, 2011), encourages destructive compliance and unhealthy competition amongst peers (Rohe et al., 2006). As a result, students are no longer intrinsically motivated in their learning, focusing on extrinsic, tangible rewards (Butler, 1988).
From my blogs I established that the grading system is broken beyond repair, and the provision of qualitative feedback as a replacement for grades could be the answer (Lipnevick & Smith, 2008). The removal of grades will reduce the ‘fear of failure’ that has accumulated in students, providing them a safe environment to engage in creative discovery learning (Bower, 2013). Hopefully, students will then begin to focus not on how well they’re doing, but what they’re actually doing (Bower, 2011).
Kat ‘s comment on my blog last week suggested that providing individualised feedback may be difficult to achieve due to teachers’ time constraints. This is a valid point, however if a teacher was grading accurately, it could be argued that they should be cognitively processing individualised feedback anyway, in order to provide the student with the correct grade. Therefore why not externalise these cognitive thought processes onto paper as feedback? In addition, a new focus on student-centred learning requires the teacher to act as a facilitator of learning, rather than the instructor (Biesta, 2009). Students’ increase in independence and autonomy should increase the time available for the teacher to produce individualised feedback for all students. The teacher’s main role shifts from the dictator of knowledge to the provider of informative feedback, with the student now taking an active role in the learning process.
Feedback is not necessarily the definitive solution; but any step towards student-directed learning is positive progression. Education should produce well-balanced, intrinsically motivated learners, not lists of uninformative grades, and using feedback instead of grades will help promote this.
Inevitably we must question the purpose of education. As suggested by Biesta (2009), the current system measures what is easily quantifiable in education (performance), not what we value (learning). Grades reduce the effort required off students, who can passively engage in learning, and teachers, who allow the grades to motivate the pupils rather than making classes intrinsically interesting (Bower, 2011). Education needs to progress from what is easy to what is important, with schools reconnecting with the true purpose of education (Biesta, 2009).
So what do you believe is the purpose of education? Is our aim to improve student performance and raise school standards, or is it discovering that hidden curiosity in every child that can blossom in to an inherent passion for learning?