To Grade or Not to Grade?

Read about Duke University professor Cathy Davidson’s experiment. Here is a snippet:

Her approach — first announced on her blog — works based on contracts and “crowdsourcing.” First she announced the standards — students had to do all of the work and attend class to earn an A. If they didn’t complete all the assignments, they could get a B or C or worse, based on how many they finished. Students signed a contract to agree to the terms. But students also determined if the assignments (in this case blog posts that were mini-essays on the week’s work) were in fact meeting standards. Each week, two students led a discussion in class on the week’s readings and ideas — and those students determined whether or not their fellow students had met the standards.

So how did it work? Davidson, the Ruth F. Devarney Professor of English, said that of the 16 students in the course, 15 already have earned an A and she expects the remaining student to soon finish an assignment that will earn an A as well. To those who believe in traditional grading, that could of course be evidence that letting students do the grading results in easy As, but Davidson said that she believes students did more work under this system (and that she did as well).

With dozens of student papers stacked up on my desk at the moment I must admit that this is looking pretty good.