TED Conversations

Mark Barnes

ASCD, International Society for Technology in Education


This conversation is closed.

Isn't it time to eliminate grades in education?

Give a student an F, she's learned nothing. Giver her an A, and what has she learned? Still nothing. Grades are subjective crutches, used by teachers because they either do not know any better, or because they are forced to give them by an archaic system.

Grades should be replaced by meaningful narrative feedback, which helps students understand what learning outcomes have or have not been mastered. Feedback also encourages learning, while grades only stifle it.

It's time for grades to be eliminated.


Closing Statement from Mark Barnes

This conversation was a remarkable experience -- one that gave me plenty to think about and to write about in my upcoming book (ROLE Reversal, ASCD 2012). I believe that many people here seem at least open to the idea of moving beyond the subjective, punitive grading system that we use today. Some still believe that grades are the only way to evaluate learning. It appears from the discussion that, in most cases, this is because they haven't been exposed to formative assessment and self-evaluation over summative testing and grades. Grades are a measuring tool, and not a very good one. The problem is not just grading but the idea that measurements are necessary in the first place. Learning should never be measured. Rather, it should be shared, discussed and evaluated openly; these discussions should be accompanied by objective feedback that guides students to other possibilities and to reflection and self-evaluation.

Upon consideration of all comments here, I remain steadfast in my belief that education needs ongoing narrative feedback. Any other system is arrogant and a mistake.

Thanks to all who participated.

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  • Jul 25 2011: I agree with you subjectively, but I disagree objectively because "narrative feedback" would be just subjectively chaotic to standardize on a mass scale.

    As a student, I don't like grades. Grades demean a student's true passion for the subject and make everything seem like a competition. But, that's the only way to go about in a practical world with many people in need of being "Educated".
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      Jul 25 2011: Raj, I'm not sure I understand, "subjectively chaotic to standardize on a mass scale." Narrative feedback is in no way standardized. It is something good teachers use to supply detailed feedback about what was or was not learned.
      • Jul 26 2011: I was just trying to say that it will be hard to implement this on a mass scale. There won't be a measure of the feedback that can be practically quantified.

        However, if we couple grades and positive feedback then the student's needs will better be delivered.

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