Art by Vivian Hsia
Transparency Item: The Perspectives section of the Graphic is comprised of articles based on opinion. This is the opinion and perspective of the writer.
For many college students, time and energy is devoted to earning high grades. Grades, among other factors, are the key to success for graduate school and ultimately leading into the workforce. However, grades are reductive — they do not paint a full picture of a person.
Grades, simply numbers and letters, are used to calculate a student’s value. However, people amount to more than their college GPA.
A grade does not capture a person’s full potential but serves to limit their perceived ability. Grades are used to measure one’s worth by universities, by peers and by the students themselves — honors like the Dean’s List reward students with high GPAs.
Over-emphasizing the importance of grades can wreck a student’s mental, physical and spiritual health.
Students stay up late to get homework done. Poor grades cause sleepless nights filled with stress. Guilt and shame over unfulfilled expectations continue to gnaw at and fray one’s self-esteem, and students begin to drift away from God, idolizing academic achievements.
To nobody’s surprise, 75% of students despise school, according to a survey study by Yale researchers.
In addition to harming students’ health, grades are also inefficient motivators for learning. External incentives and rewards, such as grades or paychecks, are less effective than intrinsic motivation, such as a natural curiosity or desire to learn, according to the American Psychological Association.
Grades inhibit a student’s natural desire to learn, and “the love of something or someone must come from within the person; it cannot be imposed from outside,” according to educator Rodney Nillsen. Students must find a love for learning within themselves.
While teachers can cultivate a love for learning by giving students freedom to tap into their natural curiosity, interests and passions, grades are a barrier to true education. The objective of one’s learning becomes to pass a class and to achieve a grade, not to better oneself and sharpen their mind. A student’s mentality is completely altered.
“People who possess the character strength love of learning are motivated to acquire new skills or knowledge or to build on existing skills or knowledge. They feel good when they are learning new things,” according to psychologist Ben Dean.
Because students’ futures rest upon achieving grades, they are afraid of failure. This fear shapes an anxious, dread-filled learning environment. Students cannot embrace the classroom if they are not given the freedom to make mistakes. Instead, students procrastinate and show decreased effort as excuses for poor work, according to a study by educator Andrew J. Martin.
Learning shouldn’t be a chore. Rather, “education is learning because you want to know. Because you’re curious. Education is learning because you need to know,” according to Jacqueline M. Kory-Westlund in a TEDx Talk.
While there is a need for structure and assessment in education, grades are simply insufficient markers of successful learning.
Instead of a proper measure of one’s understanding of course material, a grade is an assessment of how well a student can take a test. Grades simply teach students how to be good test takers, according to Harvard Business Publishing.
Furthermore, the use of grades and standardized tests tends to favor wealthier students who have greater access to tutoring and test-prep resources, according to a study by Ezekiel J. Dixon-Roman, Howard Everson and John J. Mcardle.
A genuine desire to learn can help students learn better. I love asking questions, and when I understand how to apply what I learn in school, I am filled with satisfaction.
What is the solution? Without a doubt, education communities need to advocate for change. Educational policy makers and admissions committees must deemphasize the importance of grades.
Educators can embrace new methods of teaching if they want students to love learning.
Students too, can change their perspective on grades. Ignoring one’s grade may be a bold move, but students will find freedom in learning — and achieve the grades they want, too.
While grades are a product of today’s education system and are unlikely to disappear anytime soon, individuals can make a conscious choice to stop their fixation on grades.
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