Grading is not Teaching

Grading is grading. Teaching is helping the students improve their performance or increase their knowledge or change their thinking.

Grading doesn’t do any of that. Students learn by doing (writing, creating, speaking), reflecting and getting feedback.  The doing part is the required assignments and the optional ones and the more they do, the higher the grade because I’m assuming the activity holds its own value. Also, I spend a lot of time on my lesson plans and so the more they come to class, the better their grade because I make them do things in class.

I’ve already written about how I require reflection on their optional assignments.  That could be expanded to all of their assignments.

Regarding feedback: they get a lot of that from their peers and me.  Let me count the ways.  First, immediately after they have presented, we tell them what we liked about the presentation.  “Me: What did you like about this speech, content and delivery?”  The students are pretty good about jumping in on this and they’ll often agree with one another.  Not so much on what they can improve. They really hate being critical of their classmates so I will take that, just focusing on two or three things.  This is all said out loud after all, and one of the goals of the class is to avoid awkward social moments.

Second, they get written feedback from their peer group in the form of a sheet with ten items rated as Unsatisfactory, Satisfactory, Excellent.  I assign these groups randomly making sure all groups have at least one member presenting every day and I change the groups for each required speech, about 5-7 members to each group. The students get into these groups at the end of each presentation day.  Before giving the sheets to the speaker, the group asks the speaker what they think they did well and need to improve (another reflection point).  Then they verbally respond and give the speaker their sheets.

Third, they get my feedback immediately in their e-mail through Blackboard.  This requires me to shlep my laptop with me on those days, which makes the commute that much harder even though this laptop is supposedly light weight.  However, they get this right away (which helps learning), some of them even checking their e-mail in their seats while another student is speaking, which I try to discourage but I get it.  This is opposed to my traditional way of giving them feedback with the elaborate evaluation sheet, which they get the next class period and which I hate filling out.  This e-mail note has the kind of feedback I give professionals on the occasions that I do professional coaching.  “Good eye contact, try not to touch your hair, could speak a little louder” and so forth.  There are no points attached to this feedback. That means they are focusing on the content not the grade.

Giving a grade also stresses the teacher-student relationship.  We can be having a great time in class, laughing, having lively conversations, encouraging one another, giving everyone a chance to shine. If the class is really going well, I have a couple of students who make fun of me. And then I hand back the speeches.  Eyes lower, energy falls.  It is a big old energy suck. And there is absolutely no good reason for that to happen.  The grade itself (A, B, C) gives minimal information, minimal feedback to the student.  What they get this semester is credit or no credit on their outline, and instructions on how to get credit (cite sources in body, use full sentences, whatever).

HUGE BONUS:  No discussions about extra credit.  Well, there are a couple and they go like this.

Student: Is there any extra credit I can do?

Me: No.  Because there are no points.  You just get your grade by doing the assignments and coming to class.

Student: OK.

Listen, I’ve been done with the extra credit discussion for years now.  Typically, I have something figured out at the beginning of the semester that gives them a few extra points, posted in the syllabus (like an extra text response paper or writing about a live talk they attended) and it makes them feel better.  It might even make a small difference in their grade.  But their focus on extra credit assignments is on points not on learning.

I am emphasizing as much as I can in every class, doing, feedback and reflection.

51 thoughts on “Grading is not Teaching

  1. I agree that grading is not teaching because at the end of the day your not learning anything if the teacher is just handing out assignments and not explaining anything.

    1. You don’t really learn anything just from being handed assignments and being graded on it. The way you bring everyone into the discussion with the questions helps the person presenting understand what they could’ve done better. They learn what they did well on and should work on. Being able to gain feedback from not only the Professor but the other classmates as well helps to make certain criteria more clearer.

    2. I agree that grading doesn’t allow a student to really grasp what is being taught to them. students cheat on tests all the time because the school system has become more about passing a course than learning it.

  2. I’ve always been a student who is grade-crazy. I had to be top of my class and I’ve cried because I’ve scored a few points lower than what I wanted. I never learned anything from those experiences, all I did was stress myself out. This class was such a weight lifted off my shoulders, knowing if I just did the work correctly and to the best of my ability I would be able to get an A .

    1. I am also a student who puts a lot of emphasis on the grades that I receive. Throughout middle and high school, as well as other courses in college, the grade you get is what defines you as a student. It can either hold you back or push you forward. It’s sad that your attendance and participation can be outstanding but your grade prohibits your ability to pass the course, when there are a bunch of other factors that play into a grade which are often ignored, such as the professors method of teaching and their specific grading techniques. The point system is a technique that makes you want to engage, participate, and attend because for example, it just seems so much easier to get 5 points versus 98 points in order to pass a course with an A+.

  3. i do agree with Diana but if you don’t know what you got,you won’t know what you need to improve on it, on other, hand you wont get embarrassed about your grade and you will know what you got credit for .

  4. This class has been a really great motivator not only for me, but other classmates who I’ve spoken to. It’s more comfortable to go up in front of a group of people who aren’t judgmental, I don’t know about the other classes but I know that every time I did something in front of my classmates, I never got one discouraging feedback; even though i felt I could’ve done better. I guess I really was my own worst critic, especially in my persuasive speech; i know i choked when I was remembering my aunts personal story. I feel like this was a great system, creativity isn’t something that can be graded and this is a class that isn’t like the rest. Like you said before, we are learning a life skill, it’s basically teaching us confidence; that we may be able to use to get promotion in jobs and in other situations that we have to get in front of a group of our peers to get a point across. Now the extra credit, I feel like you can reconsider that, this is me being bias.

  5. The assignments for this class being credit/no credit makes a ton of sense. Everyone comes into this class with different proficiencies and removing a grading scale lets us focus where we personally are looking for the most growth. I do wish, however, that in our peer groups I could have gotten more constructive feedback, the yellow sheets seemed wasteful because the criteria are so vague, we all want to be supportive (great class chemistry, yay) so everyone mostly circles Excellent.

  6. I feel that we should also learn more about how to present or give speeches. Yes watch video was helpful . I wish learn how to project my voice and how to present without a podium. BUT videos were helpful and interesting and gave us ideas of how to present. I do love your teaching method think you should add this to it . Just a suggestion

  7. I have always thought that putting pressure on students about getting a good grade is not going to help them learn. In my opinion this will only make them stressed and too focused to pass instead of learn. I’ve always said i didn’t agree with this kind of ‘teaching’. I am really happy to see professors understand this and act upon it. Professors who do not grade students based off their tests, finals, midterms only but instead grade students mostly on how hard they’re trying and how much work they’re putting in, those professors are much appreciated.

  8. I agree with this teaching style. It takes a lot of pressure and anxiety away while giving a speech when you’re not so much concerned with what letter grade you are going to receive. It’s more comfortable knowing that a best effort is always rewarded. We always got feedback and it was nice to know it would always be constructive and given as respectfully as possible.

  9. I personally feel that the way you teach is the way every professor is suppose to be , you care about the students learning the task , it also helps a students mindset this way beacuse they aren’t really worried about failing there just improving beacuse there getting feedback on their own work. Sometimes i wish we could focus or learn how to just not be nervous when we stand in front of the class

  10. Grading is not teaching. Throughout high school all I was ever worried about was getting the grades, memorizing things that were going to be on the exam but not actually learning anything. Yes I did learn things, after all that is the whole purpose of going to school but not in a way that would stick forever. I did feel more comfortable in this class having discussions with my peers then in all my other classes. You set up an environment in the class where we could all be comfortable speaking and learning.

  11. I appreciated this class grading structure because I feel as though there was less pressure on stressing over grades. It was a very simple system- do the assignments as best you can and get the grade. I focused on the quality of the assignments more and feel like other professors should take up this grading policy.

  12. It’s true my grade do matter. I am determine to show that I have more potential in myself than I have ever thought . I can settle for a C but no no I won’t.

  13. I agree that grading isn’t the best way to teach. Explaining things and reflecting on our assignments and the feedback with much more then just giving students a grade.

  14. I agree with the idea that grading doesn’t help student in learning because there is different between understanding and memorizing. Often student memorize answers or a part of the paragraph. when you memorize something, it just stay for few moment and latter you forget it but when you understand something then it will never faded way from your memory. so i think when student try to get higher marks they often memorize things and later they forget it and don’t actually learned anythings.

  15. I think your system of getting credit for an assignment as opposed to getting a grade for an assignment as I think it’s much easier for a student to comprehend what they did wrong and/or what they did right through feedback from you as well as peers/classmates. A grade can sometimes discourage someone’s effort which can lead to a student caring less and less about the class or on the other hand, almost force a student to over-work or overthink on the next assignment.

  16. I agree how the grading system for this class is helping students to improve their study and get motivated from peers/classmates feedback. Sometime the grading can effect or discourage them to do class work and they don’t feel like attending class because of lower grades. When someone is doing great and you did your best but you don’t get good grade that’s how student lost interest in class.

  17. I totally agree with the fact that grading is not teaching. It doesn’t help students learn because there so worried about there grade & not actually trying to focus on their work. A teacher can grade something and the student may not understand why they got the grade.

  18. I find this teaching approach very efficient . Because it gives you a sense of ease of not having to study what grade you will receive. Grading increases the stress levels and discourages your spirit if you do not get the desired grade.Grading doesn’t help a student to learn because instead of understanding and actually taking in the work,they will just memorize the work to pass but most times it is not retained.

  19. I agree with the whole idea of ‘grading is not teaching’. In my opinion us students are more worried about our grades than the actual assignment. When it comes to speech class, we should be able to feel the feeling of ‘freedom of speech’ of course to a certain limit but with grading, the student is more less interested and less passionate of the assignment. Plus, some professors are brutal graders.

  20. I find it much much better to just tell students exactly how many assignments they need to do and just do them rather than focus an entire final grade on the particulars of an assignment and scare students into worrying about their grades. I think there is value to giving students their freedom to do assignments how they want them, as they’re more likely to do what they want rather than what a professor demands they do.

  21. The teacher-student relationship hit the nail on the wall for me. Because i’m in a class now where my professor tells me how great i’m doing in class but that doesn’t reflect when i see my grade. I am penalized for every single detail. It is very frustrating to say the least.

  22. I love how you are trying to create a comfortable environment for your students. Lessening the required assignments from 4-2, gives more time to focus on your students as a whole. You get to give your full attention and work with your students closer. It gives your students time to work on projects in class, ask for help when needed. I think that having students use a type of grade sheet while they give there speech is a way to bring the students closer. It gives students a chance to give good feedback to one another for the next speech.

  23. I think since there are no grades feedback is such a huge component of this course. I think hearing what your peers and professors have to say about how you did is so much more meaningful than a grade. I personally enjoyed hearing and also giving feedback. There are some courses that i feel i didn’t really learn in but I got an A or other courses that i felt i had done everything i could have done and ended up with a B. I think the comfortable environment coupled with the feedback makes the student grow and learn.

  24. Personally, I do believe that no student “grades” should identify them either being intelligent or not. In fact, it makes the student focus more on what they scored instead of having a strong comprehension of what they’ve learned. It’s important to get feedback on what can make you learn better. Nobody knows you better than yourself. It’s important to recognize your weaknesses and strengths. Therefore, I definitely agree with the term “grading is not teaching”.

  25. I agree with this but also disagree at the same time. This is why. I believe grading a student makes them worry more about what grade they will get rather then actually sitting down and taking the time out of their day to learn. I also disagree with it as well because grading determines how good we did on that assignment and it basically is telling us we should learn a little more about it or you’ve done a good job. Its pretty much like a piece of advice.

  26. I really like this style of teaching due to the fact that I believe minimal effort would be put in for just a decent grade just to get through the course. In addition, this style I believe can bring out more efforts from students and like that they can be able to learn things.

  27. I agree that grading is not always the best approach to teaching. In many cases I feel as though it can actually deter students from putting forth maximum effort. For example, public speaking is the number one fear amongst Americans; If I am coming into this class, knowing I have a serious fear of speaking in front of people, I might already count myself out and not put in as much effort because I am not as confident in my abilities to perform in this class. Knowing you are not going to be critiqued and criticized on every little thing you did poorly is both reassuring and motivating, making me more comfortable and willing to put forth a little more effort than I might have otherwise.

  28. I totally agree that students don’t learn by getting good grades perhaps they learn by receiving feedback from each other. I learned from that class that (A, B, C) grades don’t help you, but getting and giving feedback to one another helps you do better a lot. For example on my first speech (informative) my group told me that I was crossing my legs the whole presentation and I didn’t have good eye contact, and in the last presentation I tried my best to get over those bad habits and I think that I did it!!!!

  29. I agree, also to add on a student grade doesn’t identify how great or bad your teaching is, for you it’s how motivated they are to do certain assignments on their own timing with your teaching lessons included which is great for the students since college is already stressful enough.

  30. While I agree with feedback from my peers and I find some try to be too nice as to not circle an “Unsatisfactory” on the peer group form sheet and usually comments are lacking. I find myself taking the feedback from the professor since it would seem to be the most useful to me. Most times, I try to leave a comment on the peer sheet and say things along the lines of, “tighten the structure of your speech” “you seem nervous! try reading your speech to your friends or at home”. I try not to be brutal, but I find that sometimes brutal honesty helps. I had a class in my former college where we would sit in a circle an tear into each others papers. Not like a roasting session, but more as a careful critic on where to improve. It felt uncomfortable at first, but I learned to welcome it. More casual discussion is fine too, but sometimes students can be at a bit of a lost on what to say to their peers (at least in my experience).

    1. True again, Crystal. That’s also why I don’t have verbal critiques from the students because they’re too uncomfortable with commenting on what could be improved. Nevertheless, I think it’s important that I’m not the only one giving feedback.

  31. I understand your point on how grading doesn’t really teach the student. I like how in your class, students get feedback from you and peers, instead of a lousy grade just because a student was nervous presenting and didn’t look at everyone or if a student stumbles on words. The feedback can help students understand what they did, good or bad, so they can improve themselves.

  32. I think this way is pretty fair. I agree that grading is not teaching but since in school in general, it is all about getting a good grade, passing and getting the credit. Students don’t learn much because they’re just concerned about going to the next grade or higher class. I like how your class is a bit different, it’s either come to class and do what we’re supposed to or just don’t get the credit, it’s simple. The feedback from other students or the professor helps us do better in our future speeches. Us students can get a good grade and still not learn or get a bad grade and know more then others.

  33. I agree, in one of my classes even though I’m doing my assignments my grades are not that good and was hoping i can do some extra credit work but I don’t have to think about that in your class I can just do the original assignment and still get an good grades

  34. This method of teaching instead of grading is really great in my opinion because it allows the students to feel better and be more engaged with the class, also it Helps the students emotionally since they will not feel sad for getting a bad grade even when they do their best to have a good one. In the other hand, getting feedbacks to be better without having to worry about a grade will increase your knowledge while having a great environment in the classroom.

  35. I completely agree with this statement because learning is not about grading, is more about receiving positive feedbacks from others that will help you to be better

  36. Learning is not about grading. What is the point of memorizing all the answer for a test if we don’t actually understand the material and we are only memorizing for the test? Also, everything will be out of our minds after the test. I want to learn and understand but every time i feel like i am just passing through and not actually learning .

  37. Professor glaser I agree with you on this. If a student shows up to class all the time they perform better and will help them understand alot more easier. Grading is a thing of the past but participation is the thing of the present.

  38. I like how you start off as to why you don’t grade, when I first registered for this class I was a bit nervous on how I would do since I’m not very well with public speaking. Once I realized the way you grade it made it a bit easier for me to do, because you’re going based off if you did the assignment and if it was done right in the format you showed us. I feel like it helps me focus more on what I’m going to do and say for your assignments instead of worrying.

  39. Initially when I enrolled in your Speech class, I was very nervous… still am but it has drastically lightened. I absolutely love this teaching method. This completely demolishes the anxiety of getting a D even though you tried your best and did the assignment. The feedback for classmates are such a good idea because when presenting a speech to the class it’s nerve racking, when you don’t know what they must have to say about you, or what they are thinking. It’s refreshing to see the feedback after the speech. I feel I have learned a lot in this class and I have so much more to learn as the end approaches.

  40. dear professor I really enjoyed this article because it completely represents what we do in class. by having us do things in class rather than just hear you talk all day is very go strategy because it helps us understand more. and not giving an official grade to students and making it so that you will get credit for coming to class and doing your assignment.

  41. I couldn’t have said it better myself Professor Glaser. Grading is not teaching! Teaching is actually enhancing the students’ knowledge by giving them feedback on their work and giving them a chance to improve. Grades are final and defining which usually discourages students from even going to class. Your feedback on my reflections has encouraged me to do better and also has let me know that what I’ve been doing is a good job. I have never felt discouraged or let down by you and I want to thank you for that.

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