Grading Bad?

Duke University is in the news because a prof decided not to have grading in her class. The Chronicle has the article.

So how did it work? Davidson, the Ruth F. Devarney Professor of English, said that of the 16 students in the course, 15 already have earned an A and she expects the remaining student to soon finish an assignment that will earn an A as well. To those who believe in traditional grading, that could of course be evidence that letting students do the grading results in easy As, but Davidson said that she believes students did more work under this system (and that she did as well).

She said that the students each ended up writing about 1,000 words a week, much more than is required for a course to be considered “writing intensive” at Duke (even though her course didn’t have that designation). She also said that the writing (she read every word, even while not assigning grades) was better than the norm.

It’s an interesting idea. I don’t really feel comfortable with it, especially not for freshman. But I can see it in a majors course, where people are already committed to learning in the field.

Grades are our way of saying “done well.” If all the students can do well, then I suppose this process is successful.

One thought on “Grading Bad?”

  1. I’ve noticed that informal student writing – not graded – is often better than the nervous, stiff variety submitted for a grade. A great strategy for unblocking the anxious, frozen writer but not, I think, ideal as the complete student writing experience – no matter how much grading time it saves. Mix it up I say. Most undergrad writer are not ready to fly without feedback parachute.

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