What is or should be the purpose of a "grade"?
I am going to be entering into TAing and grading students and this is a concept that I still can't wrap my head around. It still amazes me that this concept seems to be taken for granted, considering how many questions there are about grades, and yet the purpose is not clearly defined.
There seems to be a huge amount of arbitrariness in how grades are currently evaluated.
Is the purpose:
To evaluate the overall performance of a student in the course?
This seems to be how most teachers grade courses. I don't know that this is necessarily the best way.
Consider a student who completely understands the material, but refuses to or does not value doing homework. Should this student receive a lower "grade" in the course simply because she or he did not desire to put the time/value into your course, even though they already knew all the material?
To evaluate the final performance of the student?
Some teachers will treate courses this way, but it rarely seems to be explicitely stated.
Consider a student who fails every midterm, but she or he gets the highest grade on the final exam. You, the teacher, feel that the final accurately assesses someone's complete understanding of the material. Should this student not receive an "A" even though they seem to be able to complete your final exam better than any of the other students?
To say what the student is dedicated to?
Many teachers seem to put this as a value into grades.
Consider a student who attends every lecture, and office hours, but can't seem to completely grasp the material. He or she continually scores lower than other students (getting B's or B+'s on exams, while other students achieve A's). Should this person be bumped up to an A because he or she seems to care and be dedicated to the material, while someone else might have the same grade? You, the teacher, probably wouldn't have consider bumping up the less dedicated student without having heard from the other less dedicated student, and felt a sense of "fairness".
In reality the way I look at this situation, is that there is no way the more dedicated student should be bumped up. Consider that they spent so much more time and still aren't capable of grasping the material, while someone else was able to spend less time and grasp it to a better extent.
To show what the student will be capable of?
Consider that many students take very difficult conceptual courses and quickly forget the material. They would receive an A, and then quickly forget most of the importance of the course if they don't use it on a regular basis. On the other hand, some math courses are taught such that the student just has to be able to do the material, and they will be expected to understand the material later only if it is needed. This person would not receive an A in the prior, but would receive an A in the latter.
Most people would look at this question and say to just evaluate the course itself and leave the remembering to the student. Then the question is, what's the purpose of the A, if you don't care that the student actually be able to retain the information.
Others have stated that a clear objective leads to better grading.
By giving a rubric of what material will be graded on, you fix the issue of what's expected to be known.
However, this doesn't fix the issues of:
- Should there be homework? If so, how should it be weighted?
- Should someone be able to completely change their grade with the final?
- Should a student's dedication be taken into consideration?
- Should the students be graded on pragmatic knowledge, or knowledge they may quickly forget?
- Should the course be difficult so the grade the student receives feels earned, simply to keep the student humble?
- Should students be allowed to retake exams if they understand the material after reviewing their mistakes on the midterm? These students would understand the material better now and should be able to receive a higher grade.
And many other important questions that don't come to mind at this present point in time.
Please tell my I'm just crazy, and everyone sees something I don't.