Pass/Fail? Mastery? or Grades?

Faculty will often say that they wish they could convince students to stop worrying so much about grades, and to love learning for its own sake. But I think that many students already love to learn, and they are not entirely to blame for their fixation on grades. As long as our society measures intelligence by numbers, by GPAs and scores on standardized tests, students will worry about grades. 

Should universities switch to a pass/fail system? Maybe the question is premature, and what we should really ask ourselves is: are we in need of a wholesale cultural shift in the ways that we measure learning?

This post has some good food for thought. The idea of pass/fail has come up a few times in our Faculty. Do we rely too much on numbers as a measure of learning – I think we do. This is an important philosophical discussion, what is the purpose of assessment? of education? Often students are concerned more with getting a good grade instead of learning and improving. I encourage you to read the entire post and think about learning and assessment.

Marks & Grades


But the professor is undeterred about those A-pluses: “Grades poison the educational environment,” he insists. “We’re training students to be obedient, and to try to read our minds, rather than being a catalyst for learning.

The article this quote came form is a little old (from Feb) but the point is still clear. What is the purpose of education? What role to grades serve?