Negotiating grades is the better argument

Photo: 

With careful execution, a new grading system could help focus Ontario curriculums on learning and improvement rather than numerical grades.

Mayfield Secondary School in Caledon, Ontario is altering their grading system for four grade nine subjects and allowing students to argue for the grade they believe they deserve. Instead of assigning numerical grades throughout the year, students and teachers will now sit down at the end of the school year to decide together what grade the student deserves.

This approach to evaluation is more focused on the individual learner than a standardized grading system. Instead of an amalgamation of numbers and grades, these classes will be determined by a greater body of work.

Giving students the chance to advocate for themselves and their learning is one of the positive outcomes of this new grading system. When students are forced to evaluate themselves, they are able to take ownership of their faults and weaknesses, personally recognizing their strengths instead of being told what they are.

The assumption that students will argue for a better grade than they deserve isn’t giving them enough credit for their self-awareness. They may not have numbers to gage their position in the class, but they will still be receiving feedback. 

The change really isn’t as drastic as it seems. Numerical grades in subjects like English or Art are already arbitrary by nature. This system will simply put the students into the conversation every teacher has with themselves. Negotiations won’t guarantee a good grade, but it will give students the chance to understand how they’re evaluated.

This system will make it impossible for teachers to see their students as just numbers on a page. Both will need to prepare for a conversation about the student’s individual progress. Without numerical grades to fall back on, teachers will be forced to pay closer attention to their student’s progress and watch for ways they can improve.

At university, the idea that one can negotiate their grades with a professor isn’t outlandish. The appeals process gives students the means to challenge a grade they receive, but doesn’t go as far as having their initial grade decided with their input.

Right now, this grading system will only be in place for four grade nine subjects at the Caledon High School. Because of its reliance on close observation from teachers, this model will only theoretically work in a high school setting, where the teacher to student ratio is very low. 

Teachers will always have the final say on the student’s evaluation, but allowing students to plead their case will change the way students approach their learning for the better. Putting the onus on teachers to give students meaningful feedback in place of numbers gives the classroom an equal distribution of responsibility that traditional grading systems don’t always produce.

 

— Journal Editorial Board

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.