Some grading system may create unhealthy competition or a sense of failure.

WHAT is the purpose of marking and grading students’ work? It is to communicate to them how well they have completed a task, how much they have learnt and whether they applied the information presented.

But, it is more likely to be used to compare students, and, in many cases, creates unhealthy competition or a sense of failure.

It seems that this traditional grading structure allows for laziness and mediocrity, and it’s no wonder that a “C” also means an average or passing grade.

It reinforces the idea that it is acceptable for students to not learn 30 per cent of what they are supposed to learn.

It is our responsibility to convey to students as precisely as possible what is expected of them.

Thus, rubrics and checklists are important, especially in the subjective world of writing, which many consider to be not only a basic skill, but an art as well.

To be fair, if we are going to grade an academic assignment, we should only give grades based on one criterion: “Did the student do what he was asked to do, and meet all the requirements?”

Therefore, in an ideal environment, the only two possible grades one could give on a writing assignment would be “A” (for accepted) or “N” (for not accepted).

Now, some might object, noting that two students, having written papers of very different quality, might get the same “A” grade.

Yes, they could, but who is to say that the student whose paper wasn’t as sophisticated or well-written didn’t work as hard as or harder than the other student who has a natural aptitude for writing?

If you want to use grades to compare one child with another, then give Bs, Cs, Ds or Fs if they do not meet the requirements.

You don’t have to worry about students giving a poor evaluation of your work later. Just do your part as an honest educator.

But, if you want to motivate children to do their best, make it possible, but not necessarily easy, for them to always get an A.

You will discover that this is far more encouraging, and brings out far more effort than the artificial and ineffective motivation that is created through competition.

This is especially true when teaching academic writing. We can help students develop excellent composition skills using structural models and checklists of stylistic techniques.

With the right kind of editing help, coaching and grading, tutors can teach excellent writing and composition habits.

AZIZI AHMAD,

KUALA LUMPUR

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