The Thoughts of “The New College Classroom”

Why Ungrade? Why Grade?

After watching the book launch event, “The New College Classroom,” I was intrigued by the book, “Why Ungrade? Why Grade”? by the author Susan Blum. During the event, Professor Cathy Davidson referenced the book to the audience, which I found interesting and appreciated. In addition, she asked questions about how and why we should change the dynamics of learning and teaching between teachers and students. She shared with her audience quite considerable research and phenomena that indicated traditional teaching methods had declined in our contemporary time. Thus, I started to think about how pedagogy can be changed even though it has been stabilized for decades in our educational system. 

When I was reading some of the chapters of the book “Why Ungrade? Why Grade”? I recognized that grading and ungrading for students do not always have an absolute answer of wrong or right. Blum quotes, “because we invented it, we can uninvent it. We can remove it. And many of us believe we should.” She explicitly points out that humans make rules, and we can revise the rules. Also, grading is not a standard for analyzing students’ learning outcomes because it could be subjective from different professors. Another point that resonated with me was when Blum explained, “This shows that it is common for grades to be inconsistent, subjective, random, arbitrary.” She demonstrates that in different scenarios from different professors and teachers who grade their students’ papers, it turns out that the grades range from low to high scores in the same assignment that was assigned to students. This concept reestablishes and refreshes my perspective on grading and the notion of grading in what that means to teachers and their students. Moreover, teachers and students are in a dynamic system, meaning they reflect on each other and achieve their mutual goals together. I believe teachers’ only goal is to teach and give feedback to their students, and students receive and gain the outcome of the learning process. 

In one of my classes, my professor discussed how every student should have the opportunity to demonstrate mastery of learning objectives and that an A should be attainable by all, and his primary goal is to make his students realize that earning an A isn’t the goal, but rather learning the material is. He added that an A is just an alphabet letter for him, but what students actually learned from each assignment and reading piece is what he is really concerned about. I agree with his idea; grades are more like that they are inherently flawed and can stunt learning and overall growth. In school, students are responsible for studying and are required autonomy to be disciplined because teachers should only set them in their learning progress but not take advantage of them by manipulating them to do what they are not desired and ranking them with grades, which is not sustainable.

For this reason, students would maintain their lengthy period of studying for themselves, which is an example of self-determination, instead of enduring what they do not want and what they do not enjoy.

I would like to conclude with a concept from Deci and Rylan in the book: “Intrinsic Motivation and Self-Determination in Human Behavior” that supports the claim that “the intrinsic motivation is maintained when individuals feel competent and self-determined.” According to Deci and Rylan’s belief about individual control among students, intrinsic motivation is acceleration for students to keep them motivated and self-directed so that they can strive on their own for competence. This concept of having an intrinsic ability to persevere is one I resonate with greatly and believe is essential to excelling in your studies but also within your life.

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