The author, James Allen stated that teachers do not realize that they use an invalid method of grading their students. He said that this is due to the fact that the teachers were former students also and they used to be the recipients of a flawed grading system. He was referring to the way teachers evaluate the learning outcome and the ability of the students to absorb learning material is not being graded on skill or competence alone but also by the amount of effort given by the students. Allen said that this is not the way to give grades to students and that teachers must learn to use a more objective way of evaluating the performance of their students.
Allen stressed that the most important thing to consider is the validity of the grading schemes. He was emphatic when he said that “Validity is important because the sole purpose of grades is to accurately communicate to others the level of academic achievement that a student has obtained” (Allen, 2005, p.1).
Allen acknowledged that this is easier said than done because most teachers wanted to communicate not only the academic achievement but also the “ancilliary features of achievement” such as effort and desire to learn (Allen, 2005, p.1). But he countered that this should not be done and he argued that it is impossible to communicate the student’s effort through and academic excellence or the lack of it in one grading system.
Allen traced the problem to sixteen years of exposure to a subjective means of obtaining grades. He even said that teachers often find effort to be the best indicator of academic excellence and not the specific amount of knowledge gained in the classroom. Allen therefore suggested that in order to remedy this problem there must be a conscious effort to change this mindset at the undergraduate level.
Those who are studying to be teachers must be introduced to the concept of validity and that they must understand and accept the theoretical foundation as to the real purpose and significance of the grading system. Allen said that he is not raising something new. This problem he said has been addressed and yet it persists even in the 21st century.
It is imperative that teachers learn how to communicate and interpret grades. It is imperative that teachers learn how to evaluate a student’s knowledge about a particular subject. This can be achieved by initiating and sustaining teacher education programs that will teach them the principles of making valid grades.
It is a radical approach to understanding the importance of a grading system. However, Allen has a point in saying that a student’s grade in a particular subject must clearly communicate only one thing and one thing alone. A student’s grade must not communicate two ideas at once.
It must not say that he or she is a good student or that his or her effort was something to be acknowledged and appreciated. Allen said that it must only communicate the level of competency in that particular subject. This is powerful argument that if understood correctly will transform the way schools are run and the way students are educated.
It will give the teachers an effective tool to correctly gauge their student’s performance and their effectiveness as a teacher. Allen’s criticism of the current method of giving grades may even expose the lack of skills of the teachers and may be the reason why there are those who find it difficult to implement the new scheme. A valid method of assigning grades communicates to fellow teachers, the parents, and even to the students himself as to his or her current level of skill, knowledge, and capabilities in a particular subject.
Without a valid method of determining what was learned in the classroom then there is no room for improvement and if a high grade was given but not based on knowledge content but effort then this will mislead and confuse the student. This is the strength of this article.
The weakness of this article is that it failed to provide a detailed blueprint on how to tackle the problem. It simply succeeded in criticizing the current problem and the way teachers are grading their student. But when it comes to solutions the author went on to describe generalities and nothing specific.
Surely he was correct when he said that there must be educational programs for teachers so that their wrong mindset regarding the giving of grades without including effort is an outstanding suggestion but the mindset of including ancillary features of student achievement and learning into the final grade is to ingrained that an educational program may not be enough to force them to change their ways.
The most striking elements in the article are the suggestion that the current grading system used by teachers are not valid and secondly that the grades that teachers give must communicate only one fact alone. This is the essence of the article. It is the validity of the grades that must be questioned and that if the teachers are unable to produce valid grades then their grading systems, including the grading sheet are useless because it did not produce the expected results.
It is also important to stress that the grade must communicate something specific. It is also important to point out that too many teachers are trying to use one grading system to describe two different and opposite features of the learning environment. They try to grade the student’s ability to absorb learning materials and at the same time their attitude while in the classroom. This should not be the case.
This is an important and significant contribution to learning because Allen is giving people a means of achieving excellence. A biblical perspective encourages people to become the best that they can be and a wrong and non-valid way of grading their effort will lead to mediocrity and not excellence.
It is therefore important to show teachers that Allen is talking about something not to criticize them but to help them produce better students. This method that he proposed will bring out the best in both students and teachers.
The power to change is in the hands of the teachers. But this power is aided by tools. The tools given them, is noting more than the capability to grade their students. But as Allen had pointed out this tool was misused. If this tool will not be used correctly then it will not be able to show the students and the parents and even the teachers on the areas that needs improvement.
It will therefore result in a broken education system. This is an unacceptable proposition seen from a biblical perspective because humans must continue to strive to be the best for God.
Allen, James. Grades as Valid Measures of Academic Achievement of Classroom Learning. The Clearinghouse. 2005.