TED Conversations

Mark Barnes

ASCD, International Society for Technology in Education

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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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    Aug 8 2011: Jeffrey, what makes you think what I mentioned is training someone for a capitalist business model?

    By the way, the underlying cause as to why the economy crashed and stayed that way, started 30 years ago.

    So, lets prepare students by not expecting anything from them, and that will not happen again?

    Yeah right, because what happened in the 80's came from all of the former hippie free loving/dont judge me youth of the 60's who became some of the greediest capitalists ever.

    But yeah...we should repeat this cycle of expecting no more than the ability to talk, as a way to define who is educated. By the way, no matter what the idea is...at some point...we all end up grading or judging someone in some form because human nature cannot exist without acknowledgement.

    The US economy crashing is a whole different topic of its own.

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