Do grades get in the way of learning?
While I was pursuing my Master’s degree (in a different college/department) I became aware of an interesting and widespread phenomenon: the attainment of knowledge about a subject, while desirable, was secondary to the attainment of an A.
Many people would say that one cannot get an A in a class without a deep understanding of the course material and, while I wouldn’t say that is entirely incorrect, I would say that if a student understands *how* to get an A, and she sets her focus on the attainment of an A, she is not likely to explore the topic any further than it takes to get that A.
The problem here is that, for many students, the attainment of a grade takes precedence over the attainment of knowledge. It has been drilled into us to think that way. Since grade school, our parents have always asked us what we got in a course (meaning what grade), not what we got OUT of a course (meaning what knowledge).
“Homework, gold stars, lost recess and the almighty A+? Those actually thwart a child’s native sense of wonder. Not only are they motivation killers but they actually stunt real learning — exploration, connection of ideas, experimentation — and turn school into a kind of game. Which hoops do I need to jump through? Okay, those and only those will I jump through. Forget about risk-taking. That GPA is on your permanent record.”