A.M. in the P.M. – Grades hinder learning

Alex Hounchell

Alex Hounchell

Grades are necessity in academia for judging progress and comprehension, however grades can also limit the ambition of the individual student.

Perhaps, it is time for us to create less conventional means of study. If a University’s goal is to create well rounded students, it should not fail them from stepping out from what they know.

A student achieving an A or a B grade only serves to prove that someone has followed direction or memorized aspects of a book. It is not a definitive test of someone’s intellect and getting a low grade in a particular class does not mean the student cannot succeed in that subject. For example, someone who fails algebra could still excel in geometry or physics.

However, a student who did not do well in one class is discouraged from exploring similar subjects, because they risk lowering their GPA. Instead, students are pressured to limit themselves to subjects they already understand and excel in.

Students of every kind have stared at a class listing, attempting to decide whether they are smart enough to handle that class. This is not something students should have to worry about in a place of learning and failure is, unfortunately, part of the learning process.

However, between the cost of schooling, GPA impact and the pressure to graduate on time, failure is punished so severely as to impede the learning process.

If a student struggles with a concept in a science, for example, they may actually have the capacity to see an alternative path. Yet, if they were to fail physics, they may be shied away from looking into science further, even though their struggling could have enriched science as a hole.

To a lesser degree, grades make sense for rigid subjects like math. However, most college courses are wrapped around subjects that are ever changing like language, history and science. These kinds of subjects change as our understanding widens.

I suggest that before any student takes their first class, they take a general exam, less stressful than an entrance exam, or the SAT, or the ACT. This exam will encompass some aspects of every discipline and any discipline that a student scores low on will be kept on their record.

Then every semester, each student that had a low score should be offered a free online course in that subject, in which they will get an overall grade based on participation.

This low stress learning mechanism may push some people to look into subjects they may never have thought of looking into.