GPA as a Reflection of the Student’s Commitment


I find the idea of grading to be important in the STEM fields because it makes the student accountable for the materials that were presented in class. Most of my undergraduate course required the traditional grading scheme where you have to put countless hours into studying in order to achieve the grades that you want. In terms, I do agree with Alfie Kohn that strict grading scheme does hamper creativity and causes the student to find the easiest task to get an “A”. In my undergraduate, I was able to take an “experimental” course in materials science. In this course, we were given options to “choose” the way that we want to earn the “A” in the class. We had options of writing weekly blogs on materials, writing midterm essays, performing research, creating a presentation about material topic and teach the class, etc. In that class I looked for the easiest assignments so that I can get it done quickly and focus on other classes. I remember very little from what I have learned in that class. In comparison, I can relate fundamental thermodynamics theories to the applications that I see every day. I find that the gradeless system may work to inspire creativity and pushes the student to self-explore, but it does not hold students accountable for the course topics. I find that it is “human nature” to take the path of least resistance in whatever they do. Therefore, unless the student develops a passion for that topic, they will only do the minimum amount of work whether it is grade or gradeless.

I disagree with the statement, “Grades don’t prepare children for the “real world…” made by Alfie Kohn. I find the that the GPA is a determination of the student’s perseverance, adaptability, and commitment. I personally have to put ridiculous amount of hours into studying in order to pull the GPA that I want.  That shows my commitment to “excellence” in whatever tasks that I am assigned with. Similarly, I am forced to take so many different classes in undergraduate that I feel the GPA represents my ability to adapt. It measures how well I am able to pick up new ideas and topic regardless of whether they are interesting to me or not. Lastly, I think it tests my perseverance because there are times that I have failed, but I kept on fighting for continuous improvement. Even though, the GPA does not truly measure a student’s intellectual capability or learning achievement, it does measure the commitment that the student has toward his education.

I do think that the traditional grading system needs a bit of modernization. Again, my experiences disagree with Alfie Kohn article stating that, “Initially Robbins announced that any project or test could be improved and resubmitted for a higher grade.  Unfortunately, that failed to address the underlying problem, and he eventually realized he had to stop grading entirely.”  The classes that I learned the most from are the ones that the teacher allows the students to make revisions on their assessments to get partial credit. The only assessment that the professor did not allow revisions was the final exam. This concept forces me to reevaluate what I have learned. It encourages me to take on harder tasks because if I fail, there is a chance to recover from. It is a great way to “force” the students to reflect upon what they have learned an improve it. If they don’t they will make the same mistakes on the final exam.


2 thoughts on “GPA as a Reflection of the Student’s Commitment

  1. I believe you raise some important points here. GPA is not necessarily a good quality measure for our ability per se, but it does take into account the time, effort and dedication. I can also relate to your example, that given the opportunity of choosing our system of assessment, we would choose the easiest way to get an “A” so that we can focus on other classes where we also need to get an “A”.

    But what if there are no A’s and there are no GPA’s? What would we do then? What if there isn’t this “other thing” we need to focus? Would we become lazy and not study, or would we actually be more focused and try to learn in depth instead of memorizing? I am not sure about the answer.


  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us! While I have benefited from the revise and resubmit model that is common in undergraduate engineering what it always came back to for me was my lack of interest in the material. I didn’t care for it, I wasn’t engaged in it. Part of this had to do with the instruction, part of it had to do with me, but a lot of it had to do with the assessment. I remember taking dynamics exams in rooms with stadium seating wondering, “in what world would I be designing something and not reference a textbook for a calculation if I wasn’t sure I was applying it appropriately?”

    I remember during my study breaks I would pour over the NTSB Crash Reports ( I could get lost in those things for hours.Thinking about what my ultimate goal is as a transportation safety professional I think that both dynamics and my ‘study breaks’ offered value to my education, however, the context in which I engaged in the crash reports was much more enjoyable than my dynamics class. I think now, what if my dynamics class had been more tailored to my interests? What if my exams had not been structured like “exams”? Would my feelings toward the course be different?


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