Language & Composition

Mr. Eure | Brewster High School

The Case Against Grades

Read Alfie Kohn’s “The Case Against Grades,” which you can load online by clicking here. After you’ve finished reading, complete the following two exercises.

Part 1: One question: In the comment section of this post, ask one specific question that was raised for you about the reading. Is there a concept worth elucidating? Does Kohn raise an issue that you want to explore further? Is there an immediate concern you have about not being graded? Let this question be a sort of preface to the second exercise, which is free writing; keep in mind that we will continue to discuss this process through the beginning of next week, as well.

Part 2: Free writing: Open your Google account and load a blank document. Spend the rest of today’s period writing an answer to the following essential question:

  • To what extent are grades and learning connected in your education?

Use your reading of Kohn to inform your response. Be specific and thorough; this is not going to be shared with me or anyone else unless you want to do that, so there’s no reason to hold back. Get your thoughts down, letting Kohn’s theories and examples guide you.


85 responses to “The Case Against Grades

  1. Joseph Oliveri January 31, 2013 at 8:02 pm

    As many of us find a large amount of time dedicated to the process of preparing for colleges this year… looking, applying, visiting, etc, some of Kohn’s points may apply. Constantly hearing things along the lines of college being the closest thing to the “real” world, it seems ot me that college education is somewhat more unforgiving than a middle school or highschool experience. There’s little, and sometimes no time in order to “learn about our learning”. In a way, staunch, coldly decisive numerical marks on graded work might be our most valuble hope in today’s world. Realistically, With all of the dogma and red tape surrounding schools and even getting a career this day in age, could societyu find a way to adopt Kohn’s ideas?

  2. Eiman Khan January 31, 2013 at 11:33 pm

    As a society we are ever so familiar with the idea of being tested after a unit or writing that essay after a novel, but is it possible to deter from that mind set and dive into something as bold as Kohn’s version of “grading”?

  3. Melanie Davis February 1, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    While reading this article, I came across a few questions I had. One question was that when we are graded on our work we tend to see the assignment as a job. However, when we are working at a job, you don’t get a letter or number grade, so why do we call school a job? Another question I had was that in the article it states how “we need to shift our focus from educational measurement techniques to broader physiological and pedagogical questions.” This shows how adding grades to work, triggers something in our brain that makes us work for better grades and not a true understanding and care for the work done. This makes me wonder what exactly in the brain triggers these things and why exactly do grades effect us so poorly

  4. Tomi Alade February 2, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    Deleting grades completely is supposed to draw our attention away from the number that reflects our learning but on what we learned and how we learned it. But at the end of the process of deleting grades, a grade will still be chosen that reflects what we learned. My question would then be, Isn’t this whole process a contradiction because the whole purpose to eliminate grades fails when we are still being graded? The only difference is that we get to choose and negotiate the grade with the teacher who then has the final say and then we learn that we cannot avoid the usage of grades because we are dependent on them.

  5. Abigail Verille February 6, 2013 at 9:23 pm

    Grades have made up a major part of our education ever since kindergarten. They decide whether or not we pass or fail in any subject. Grades consist of numbers and letters that do not portray our understanding of any of our studies, but rather give us an idea of how our memory handles a stressful testing situation. If we eliminate grades, as Kohn suggests, will a student’s desire to learn grow?

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