TED Conversations

Mark Barnes

ASCD, International Society for Technology in Education

TEDCRED 10+

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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.

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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 29 2011: Grades hold assumed value like paper currency. Grades only matter if you assign value to humans based on how intelligent they are. But often grades do not measure intelligence. Wierd. How many of you have taken an IQ test and take personal pride in how high your score was? This is the archaic mentality that Barnes is talking about. That's what I think.
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      Jul 29 2011: Great point about IQ, Victoria. I agree. I know people with very high IQs who are very poor thinkers, just as many straight A students aren't nearly as innovative as C students. Thus, the problem with both of these measures.

      Thanks for weighing in on this.

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