Tuesday, January 5, 2016

To Grade or Not to Grade: This is the Question

The decision to grade the work submitted by my online students has been a difficult one to make. In fact, in many ways, I remain of two minds about it.  The writer in me dislikes the idea of grading completely. Writing is a skill and as such has a learning curve. Making mistakes is a natural and necessary part of the process. It would be like grading someone’s ability to carve an owl out of a piece of wood in workshop. It will never come out perfect the first, second, or even third time.  I believe that confidence and practice breed writing success. How then can I grade honestly and accurately while boosting confidence and fostering a willingness and desire to try a new skill? Yet, after the first year of Online Classes, it is apparent that many students have been conditioned to write for a grade. The end grade motivates and compels them to work hard and within deadlines. The grade provides the understanding of how they are doing in the teacher’s mind.

Herein lies my dilemma. Despite the fact that I prefer to use simple feedback and encouragement as my method of correction, I see that it is quite possibly not enough for the modern student. I would prefer to believe that learning for learning sake is enough reward. Instead, I have chosen to devise my own grading system in which effort is taken as much into the equation as the output.  Learning to write is not a cut and dry subject in which mastery can be attained in a week or even two. Writing requires practice. Trial and error is required and applauded.  If students simply learn the equation for an A or B paper, then they will likely never press on to more difficult skills.  To this teacher, a student who is trying new techniques and making mistakes along the way is a student who will become not only proficient but achieve writing excellence!

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