For the Love of Grades

I have developed an analogy that describes some of my feeling about assigning grades. When I was of dating age, I used to hear a lot about the different expectations of men and women in a dating relationship. Men desire physical intimacy, usually described as “sex.” Women desire emotional intimacy, usually described as “love.” The result is fertile ground for misunderstanding and frustration. A man will feign emotional intimacy (tell a woman he loves her when he doesn’t) so that she will offer physical intimacy. A woman will get physical (even though she is not entirely comfortable with that) with a man in hopes that the man will fall in love with her and offer her the emotional intimacy she desires. I propose that an analogous situation is created with instructors and students. Instructors desire student engagement with the subject matter. Students desire good grades. Instructors use grades as both carrot and stick to elicit student engagement in some form – class discussion, writing assignments, studying information. Instructors are ambivalent about grades because they are a necessary means to an end, and not genuinely the desired outcome. Students have been known to feign interest and engagement in order to receive the desired grade from the instructor. Going through the motions may eventually lead to a real mutual appreciation of the “arranged” marriage type. The thing to keep in mind is that the right balance between engagement and evaluation can be struck but it has to be deliberate and carefully sought in full view of possible conflicting motives.

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One Comment

  1. Posted December 18, 2009 at 1:23 am | Permalink

    Interesting analogy… this reminds of when I met a teacher who was frustrated that his students were not interested in learning but just interested in their grades. So one day he told me that he realized that teachers cannot teach students material, rather a teacher can only help a student figure it out on his/her own. Whether or not that is true, I don’t know. =)


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