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Thursday, May 12 • 11:00am - 11:15am
Choose-Your-Own-Grade: Instructional Civil Disobedience

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Grades, though ubiquitous, obstruct learning. Common methods for calculating and assigning grades violate basic principles of statistics and educational measurement. Well-established findings in motivational, cognitive, and positive psychology support the argument that grades should not be used. Educational philosophers have demonstrated the inherent structural unfairness of the grade point average (GPA). Yet, despite the lack of any solid grounding in any discipline, grades remain an entrenched feature of the global educational landscape. This paper describes a pedagogical approach, bordering on civil disobedience, called “choose-your-own-grade.” In this approach, students are allowed to select any grade they would like for a course without any prerequisites or conditions. While significant positional authority is retained by the instructor, a great deal of power is abdicated to students. The nature, content and quality of discourse between student and instructor changes dramatically, tending to gravitate more toward substantive, though increasingly diverse, explorations of course content, and away from the superficial. Fundamental issues regarding the form and purpose of education are both revealed and clarified, both at the individual and macro levels. The conflicts of interest inherent in our current educational culture manifest themselves when students struggling with motivation and persistence begin to reveal the complex, multifaceted pressures that pit them against their peers and instructors. While the overall level of student performance remains relatively consistent with more traditional approaches, variability increases. Subtle differences in how the experience is structured result in differing levels of student satisfaction. Ultimately, however, the choose-your-own-grade approach faces significant, and perhaps insurmountable, impediments to effectiveness within the context of modern educational institutions. Representative stories from six years of exploration of this pedagogy illustrate some of the benefits, successes, challenges, and failures of this approach.


Thursday May 12, 2016 11:00am - 11:15am
COOR L1-88 975 S Myrtle Ave Arizona State University Tempe, AZ 85281
  • Session Location COOR L1-88

Attendees (25)