It’s time to rethink the meaning of grades and how they’re constructed.
The current Canadian post-secondary grading system is used to determine a student’s value and rank in the education system. But because education tends to cater to certain learning styles, it fails to adequately reflect the actual learning abilities of many students, and as a result often punishes exploration and those who learn differently.
Despite this, grades are revered as the ultimate barometer of success, instilling in learners that their self-worth is tied to their grades.
This system isn’t inherently bad, but it needs to better reflect how well students have learned.
While tailoring evaluation methods to every individual student isn’t feasible, slight adjustments to course breakdowns is one way to accommodate diversity in learning styles. If the purpose of a course’s grades is to see how well students have learned the material, they should have at least one opportunity to prove their knowledge through a method they feel comfortable with.
Offering a greater variety of assignments is an example — for instance, auditory learners could have the option to give oral presentations.
Community-based learning should also be incorporated into assessment. Individual tasks are weighted heavily in mark breakdowns, but test-taking and memorization skills aren’t as valuable in the workplace and real life as collaboration and communication.
A more collaborative environment can be fostered in several ways: through class discussions, group activities and student presentations, and through a classroom’s physical space.
Queen’s took steps towards the latter point by opening three active learning classrooms in Ellis Hall last January. Such renovations couldn’t feasibly be done in all classrooms, but professors can revamp their course breakdowns to encourage group interaction.
One-on-one learning and smaller class sizes are cited as the best way to improve personalized education, but due to financial constraints, it isn’t an immediate solution. The majority of Queen’s professors do offer ample office hours — a resource more students need to take advantage of.
Since professors can only do so much to better accommodate students, post-secondary institutions need to encourage the addition of new methods of assessment.
Alterations should be made to the student admittance process as well. Universities could consider personal statements, letters of reference, extracurricular participation and other factors to gain a clearer, comprehensive picture of a student’s abilities.
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