In response to a conversation on WPA-l about writing assessment, I made an off-topic remark:

I do wonder why people still grade essays.

One forgiving list member asked me:

Professor Peckham:
Could you explain what you mean by the above statement?

Thank you.

I responded: 
Hi, Michael

Rather quickly since I’m heavily into a project: we know (abundant research) that grades are counterproductive (and in fact, a residue of our having been persuaded by a capitalist culture that discourse and identity are individualistic with grades being a stand-in for dollars) if we want to help students with their writing. Far more productive is the practice of responding to student writing as an authentic reader and constructing writing situations in which students are writing seriously to and seriously responding to one another as readers (i.e., creating authentic writing situations rather than “school” writing situations. We have ourselves too often been persuaded (and I think, falsely) that grades are a necessity (they are not) and we in turn persuade our students (who later become us) that they need grades. Let’s call that a false perception of objective reality (Freire). If you need grades, have students construct portfolios at midsemester and at the end of the semester & assign them then. I recommend telling all students that they will receive As if they are always present and do all the work & work downward from there, if you must. Here’s an example of how you can have students construct portfolios:

I apologize for my somewhat flippant remarks.  Can’t help myself.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *