Which is why, of course, I’m blogging right now, but in the meantime, check out this series of posts on abolishing grades in education.
While this applies more to secondary ed than higher ed, I’ve often (fruitlessly) toyed with the idea myself, as I believe in my heart of hearts that education is its own reward and that grades and grading rubrics, especially in Composition & Rhetoric, are subjective and often arbitrary. For the sake of helping students improve, there would need to be some sort of general rubric in place so that they could self-assess and continue to grow, but the A-F system has troubled me for years. Pass/Fail seems to be the only alternative in higher ed, but this system can also bite you in the ass when it comes time to apply for graduate school or other areas that require a GPA. Joe Bower presents several compelling reasons to shift away from the traditional model of learning-for-grades in secondary ed, and I wonder how many of these could be modified to work in a college classroom, as initial feedback on drafts, in my classroom anyway, fits with this model to begin with.
Of course, to some extent this is a pipe dream: it’s not like you can abolish grades without the total consent of the department, dean, university, and so on, and God help you if you float this idea as an adjunct (goodbye, job; hello, unemployment). But it’s interesting to consider as an experiment. Perhaps something could be secretly implemented in college—especially if your department isn’t constantly on your ass—where the “mark on the report card” is the only concrete traditional grade, and learning occurs for the sake of learning up until a standard midterm and/or final grade.
Someday, if/when I’m permanent faculty anywhere, I’m going to figure out how to implement labor-based grading.