Are Peer Assessments and Grades Relevant?
Those of you that follow my blog know that I’ve been taking free online courses through Coursera.org. I am incredibly pleased with the quality of the lectures and coursework, as they are of the same quality I paid for undergraduate courses at a university. The classes aren’t for credits, but each student that completes a course gets a certificate. By the end of next year I should have a wall full of them. ☺
I completed a Computer Science 101 class a few months ago. It was a very basic course on how computers work, and even though I’ve been operating them since the Commodore 64 came out in the 80s, CS101 made me realize I didn’t know squat about how a computer actually works. There were no grades in the class, just self-guided quizzes at the end of each section, which was good enough for me, because some of the material was completely over my head and through the woods.
The two courses I am signed up for presently do give grades, but they are based on ratings from peers. I appreciate feedback about the topics we are discussing, because it helps generate my imagination. But I don’t feel that peer “grading” is necessary, particularly for classes that aren’t for credits. I don’t prefer receiving grades, because I’m getting what I can out of these classes and putting out what I can. If I am to be graded, I would rather it be by a qualified professional.
Grades are very subjective. For example, my daughter painted a very cute watercolor fish in first grade and was given a “C” by her art teacher. People have said, “How does a first grader get a ‘C’ anyway?” It’s subjective. I loved her little fish painting so much that I kept it for years and finally just had it professionally framed. And it wasn’t because it was because my kid painted it. It was because I am an artist and art teacher, and quite honestly, how can you grade someone’s expression and interpretation? (Plus, the painting really was adorable! ☺ )
Being a teacher myself, I know that grades can make people feel bad. Depending on education levels and field areas, some students will obviously do better than others. Do grades take the fun out of learning? Only if you don’t take them seriously. I know what I am capable of doing and grades are merely other people’s opinions, just like judges in a contest.