Landing : Athabascau University

Do we get too caught up with grades?

It seems like whenever we talk about student acheivement, and especially when we start  talking about analytics, we start talking about grades/ scores/marks.

It shouldn't be surprising because grades/ scores/ marks are the most deeply entrenched form of data in most learning and training environments.  We talk about looking at the behaviours of "good" students and encouraging "bad" students to do those things in order to improve their marks and become "good" students.

Over my academic career, I have definately gone from being a bad student to being a good student.  My marks, effort, attitude and interaction with others have all improved over time. So that has me wondering (other than getting older), what has changed? 

From what I can gather, I gauged my learning by my grades.  I did the pieces of a course that were most likely to be on the test, or read over a paper 30 times just to make sure I didn't lose a point because I hadn't followed APA style precisely.  And then at some point, I think when I got dinged for not making verbose (I mean substantive) enough discusion posts, I kinda gave up. And when I gave up, I relaxed and starting really interacting with the content and the people, following my real interests and maybe even having some fun.

In doing so, I learned more, connected with more people outside of my course and, in a surprising twist, my marks have trended upwards without the stress.

I am a strong proponent of the use of analytics to improve learning (both the quality of what is developed and how the users use it), but unless we start grading real learning (and I am in no way proposing a way to actually do that),  maybe tying all of our thinking to the Gradebook and the marks is contains is a bad idea.

Just look at how many  people come out to learn, discuss, share and play in an open course with no marks attached!


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