Should College Courses be Graded "Pass/Fail?”
This morning my son and I sat for a nice breakfast out on our patio to listen to the birds and enjoy the fresh air. Zack is fourteen years old and just finished his freshman year in high school. I posed a question to him, “What motivates you to get a better grade than a C on your assignments and exams?” Zack explained his motivation comes from trying to achieve an A because that’s the best and he tries hard to get the best grade. I then asked him, “What if your assignments and exams were graded only as a pass or fail, would you just do the minimum work that was required to get by?” His answer actually surprised me. He explained that without the pressure of meeting the grading criteria, he would have more time to learn and understand without being pressured by a grade. What this says to me is Zack would have time to focus on the subject matter that interests him the most and learn things that he can apply to his own personal life, not the standard requirements set by the teacher. The apprehension, however, is the knowledge base needed for the basic fundamentals of each curriculum, which teachers instruct by motivating students by a grade of comprehension. If students are not willing to take initiative to learn the basics, something has to motivate them. This question applied to the UMUC curriculum shows that same pros and cons. The pros of a pass/fail grading method give more freedom to students to broaden their scope of learning and ease the pressure of achieving what the teacher expects for a level of grade. The cons are leaving this broadened curriculum up to the students to decide what to learn and to accomplish, if anything. With the knowledge of having to just meet a level of “Pass” might give students an out to do the minimum required. The main goal is to learn and apply the new skills and tools to our lives and possibly teach others from our experiences. Students choose to go to...
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