Pick Your Own Grade in College — Yep, It’s Come to This

Sure, let's take away all motivation in higher education for young people to strive for excellence, even have basic accountability

If you think the stress of grade uncertainty and the pressure of rigorous academic standards are a bit too much for college kids to handle these days, you’re onto something.

A professor at Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina, is offering students a deal. They can pick their own grade in her class — and then do only the work they think is needed to earn it.

Want a “C” as a final class grade (to sleep in late and only sporadically attend lectures)? Sure, write it into your contract with your professor, and you’re all set.

Melissa Gonzalez is giving students the chance to choose their own academic adventure in her Introduction to Spanish Literatures and Cultures course at the private college, as The College Fix reported.

Gonzalez argued there is “a strong pedagogical rationale for contract grading,” as the increasingly common practice has come to be known, in an email to students obtained by The Fix.

“It can help students focus on learning more than on grades, and therefore make more progress in their learning, with less anxiety,” she said in the email.

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She also noted in the email that the class itself is in danger of being canceled — due to lack of student interest.

“I want to make sure you know about some important innovations I am introducing in the course [contract grading] so that you can decide today or as soon as possible whether you want to take SPA 270 in Fall 2018,” she wrote. “If you do, please use ADD/DROP as soon as possible to add it, or the course will have to be canceled.”

The Hispanic studies professor and member of the gender and sexuality studies department further explained the course expectations.

“At the end of the semester, if the student completed the specific work they said they would, at the satisfactory level, they receive the grade they planned to receive,” she said.

Gonzalez believes the pressure of grading distracts from students’ learning experience.

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She cited 2009 research by Peter Elbow and Jane Danielewicz to bolster her arguments.

“The contract helps strip away the mystification of institutional and cultural power in the everyday grades we give in our writing courses,” the scholars said about contract grading.

Increasingly, universities are marketing themselves as social organizations designed to make students feel comfortable.

But instead of becoming pricey support groups, these schools need to be challenging students to reach the high academic standards set forth for them. In other words — how about preparing them for life?

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Kyle Becker is a content writer and producer with LifeZette.

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