Gradeless classes encourage dialogue

With no grades, classes focus on students’ growth

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Gradeless classes encourage dialogue

Midway artwork by Jasmine Tan

Midway artwork by Jasmine Tan

Midway artwork by Jasmine Tan

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As the Midway sees it…

Imagine walking into your English class on the last day of the semester. Instead of taking a final exam, you have gathered together your work from this semester into a portfolio that you will show your teacher. With this portfolio, you must discuss what grade you deserve, depending on your work ethic and improvement throughout the semester. There are no uses of numbers or percentages whatsoever in this process.

  In the past year, U-High teachers and students have experimented with these so-called gradeless classes. These classrooms allow for increased conversation and collaboration between teachers and their students. However, these courses need to implement strict guidelines to ensure that students don’t slack off to take advantage of the absence of motivation and accountability grades can provide.

These classerooms allow for increased conversation and colllaboration between teachers and their students. However, these courses need to implement strict guidlines to ensure that students don’t slack off…”

Effort and improvement in a given subject — rather than the achievement of points for individual assignments — is the goal in gradeless classes. The key difference between this and traditional classes is the focus on an individual student’s growth rather than their specific performance. A gradeless classroom is intended to lower stress and help students develop good learning habits rather than binge-studying for assignments and tests in order to succeed.

Some may believe that students are more concerned with the learning experience rather than grades. However, due to the U-High’s prestige and reputation, there is naturally a cachet and culture around getting good grades. Because of this, a gradeless system can be less effective and even harmful if the student has to worry about a teacher’s thought process and objectivity grading an assignment.

Going gradeless makes room for a stronger, more conversational relationship between student and teacher.

To properly evaluate the growth and work of a student, the teacher needs to fully understand how the student learns through an open dialogue.

This only works if students are willing to put effort into the class and communicate about where they’re at, whether it’s a success or a loss. If not, it results in a gray area that relies on the student’s general relationship with the teacher and creates more tension and ambiguity surrounding grades.

In addition to allowing for a student to develop as part of the design of the class, it must be expected that some students will attempt to take advantage of the system to slack off, even at a prestigious school.

If they are not pushing themselves and giving care to each individual assignment, even without number grades, the system is exploited and loses its potential value.

Without external motivational, a student could very easily continue this trend throughout the year, which is why it is crucial for the teacher to step in and create guidelines.

Students need to apply themselves into gradeless classes to the point that they’re recognizing the learning experience for what it is in order to set a standard and succeed.

Teachers, in turn, need to hold students accountable by communicating when they do not meet their standards that they set.

This represents the opinion of the Midway Editorial Board