I do not know how prevalent my attitude is. Based on many talks with professors, students, and a lot of listening in on conversations grades are important to a lot of people. Grades are not important to me. I do not say this as a graduating student. I say this as a student from start to finish. What is a grade?
A symbolic measurement of what I have learned or been able to demonstrate on a test designed by one person with an informational bias. This is given as a Letter with a possible modifier of + or -.
Thus my many A’s, A-‘s, and couple of B’s is supposed to indicate to anyone who is looking at my transcript the sum of my knowledge in the courses I took. Except that I do not carry a transcript with me to show other people my alphabet soup of knowledge. I do not present with a resume a copy of my transcript to wow potential employers with all of my letters. Honestly, NOBODY CARES!
Nobody has ever asked me for my grades. Not teachers. Not students. Not professors. Not employers. Not employees. Not the government. Not relatives. Nobody. And when I have tried to talk about grades, you know to impress the ladies, NOBODY CARES!
Of course I am in the vocal minority that grades are arbitrary and less than satisfactory reward for 15 to 16 weeks of work. Then again, if i had it my way there be no exams. What no exams? That’s right. Exams as they are currently handled are arbitrary. Professors teaching the class design them and if the professor is:
- having a bad day
- poor test designer
- ignores spell check
- wants to prove they are smarter than the students
- or any other of a host of reasons that I have seen on exams, including using the same exams year after year or my favorite this semester, hands out a study guide for one thing and tests on another
This makes exams a suspect measure of anything than I tested well that day either to the knowledge the professor felt was important to know or I tested well to the professor. Regardless, not an accurate measure of what I or any other person learns.
If I am not for exams, what am I for? Show me what you have learned. Write a paper, better be long. Give a presentation, better be a good one with visual aids. Do something that shows to me everything that you have learned, from the big concepts to the minutiae that you found interesting. The more you can impart in a medium that you feel comfortable with the better idea I, as the instructor, have about what you are learning. Plus having you tell me what you learned reinforces the retention process, along with practical use, and even better I or the professor could question your knowledge to guide you or see if you got the information/details correct. No more studying for the test and forgetting the information five minutes after the exam.