“What do grades actually mean?”
I wonder what the answer would be if we were to pose this question to other faculty here and elsewhere… Are grades snapshots of work? Are they benchmarks that relate to content mastery and understanding? Or are grades simply antiquated measurements of knowledge that have little to no bearing on the digital world we currently live in?
I personally think that the overwhelming response would be that there is no clear idea as to what grades actually mean, regardless of location or level of education being taught.
Personally, I would like to think that grades represent a metric by which a teacher (or evaluator) can use to measure the level of mastery that an individual has gained in a particular course/subject. Translation –> the better the grade, the better you know whatever it is you were studying.
This rant has its’ beginning in two recent projects given in my Environmental Science class. Specifically, the students were told to evaluate the others in class. They were to provide several comments of a constructive nature (what was good, what was bad, what could be improved, etc), AND they were to also propose a grade for the projects. That was where I began to see a “disconnect” in my students. On my most recent project, one student was given comments of “[presenter] spoke too fast, didn’t seem familiar with information, and needs much more eye contact, not very passionate about topic.” The students that wrote the above comments also felt that a grade of B+/A- was deserved. Now as some background, the assignment in question was to produce a persuasive presentation that would work to encourage interest in the chosen topic/subject. The comments my students have given as feedback on these projects are, in my opinion, very insightful and are also full of very constructive criticism. But the grades that accompany those same projects do not seem to match the evaluations. To me it seems that these students seem to honestly feel that they are “entitled” to high grades for simply COMPLETING the assignment and doing only the minimum asked of them.
So I want to ask for your help… What do you think is meant by an “A”? What about a “C”? If we were to put this question into the vernacular of Dave Monaco, “Should a grade of “A” represent work that is “remarkable” in its’ excellence?” Now, I would also like to clarify, that I am not against all of my students earning high marks (A’s), but I am concerned about a perceived failure in understanding what “Excellence” actually means.