My Students Demand Partial Credit
Wiesenfeld lamented about the students' "indifference toward grades as an indication of personal effort and performance" and attributed this indifference to "having been raised on gold stars for effort and smiley faces for self-esteem, they've learned that they can get by without hard work and real talent".
Reading Wiesenfeld's essay makes me think how we are raising our children. Their attitude towards grades is very likely shaped by their past experiences. Their view of being entitled to partial credit is possibly shaped by what they have experienced during their basic education years.
As a college instructor, the final grades I give to students are determined solely by their scores in the exams. Yes, there is ten percent assigned to online homework, but there is no partial credit for effort, extra projects, or attendance. The final grade is not a judgment I make, but a product that the students have made themselves. It is not a measure of how good they are as chemists. It is simply a measure of whether they are able to answer the questions in my exam.
We really need to help our children develop a healthier attitude towards grades if we are giving them grades early in their education. I am reposting the first paragraph of the previous post in this blog because it brings out what may go wrong when a child does not know what grades really mean:
Going through school, we really have learned the ABC's. And I am not talking about the alphabet. I am talking about the letters commonly used for reporting our grades. Based on these grades, we are able to compare ourselves against each other. With grades, we leap into labeling each other as either "good" or "bad" student. We even go further by comparing grades we obtain in one subject against another subject. I got an 'A' in math but only a 'D' in reading so I must be 'smart' in mathematics. We have even gone to the far end of equating grades as requirements to either enter an exclusive school or getting a job. In reality, the letter grades do not really mean that much. An 'A' in math does not really tell us what a student has learned. Math is too broad of a category and unless we have access to the quizzes, exams, homework, and other tools that are incorporated in this final grade, we really cannot tell how much a student has learned. It is perplexing that we have basically equated grades to our identity, allowing these letters to shape who we think we are.In that same post, I shared what my son's instructor in karate does with regard to grades. Yesterday, my son on his own shared his report card with his karate master. The master acknowledges first of all my son's initiative to show his grades. Then, the master went through each improvement shown in my son's report. To my son's karate master, what is more important is that my son always gives his best, and that he always strives to be better.