Do grades really serve the propose we want?

I read these days an interesting German article, questioning the future of grades as we give them today. Basically, he repeats a critic that we already discussed in our course in the EA2. The main points are:

  • Grades are just a time snap of the moment. They do not tell you, what happened afterwards – like did the student study hard and overcome his deficits. The grade does not tell you, but last forever – something, we see every day when applying for “bolsas” and the referee points out a “bad” grade of the PostDoc candidate in his undergrad studies. By now, those grades do not tell anything about the ability of the candidate, because he had years of studying afterwards to fill the gaps – and most of the time did.
  • Grades given without the possibility and the feedback to improve are demotivating and hinder the learning process. They tell the person repeatingly, she/he is bad without the chance to attack the deficit or to improve at the area in question.  This leads to the flourishing of wrong learning, were we concentrate to get a good grade and not to dominate the content and concepts being taught – basically, we support surface learning against deep learning.
  • Grades are a general statement without telling you, what is good or bad in detail. Does a student with a low grade in a lab course, e.g.  not know how to write a report, but is great at the experiments or has he just learned the wrong part for the test, but would be able to do all the experiments and report them in a great way? Or – even worse – a student with a good grade did good in the reports and the test, but never carried out the experiment and is not able to do it as experiments been done in groups.


In a conclusion, the grade is very limited in their current form to fulfill the thing, we expect from them: monitoring the learning progress and act as feedback for student and teacher, if the teaching is good; telling the outside that a person managed to dominate the area of question as well as indicate the person for grants and “bolsas” inside the academic system. Which means, we have to converge to a better way to evaluate our teaching and learning.