The Kinds of Grading Mistakes that Haunt Students

Amy Jessica McMillan

Heick, T. (2014, September 21). The kinds of grading mistakes that haunt studentsTe@chthought. Retrieved from

Blogger Terry Heick makes a strong case for the harm caused by our traditional grading system. According to Heick, letter grades are motivating for two types of students: 1) Students who see themselves as smart and like to work for grades as rewards, and 2) Students who hate school and only keep their GPA up in order to participate in extracurricular activities. Therefore, says Heick, “They [grades] don’t work for anyone.” In other words, our grading system does nothing to promote learning. Heick lists some common mistakes teachers make with grading, such as grading too much, highlighting the weaknesses instead of potentials for growth, waiting too long to grade, and not using the data. Finally, Heick argues that grades are really the teachers’ “best guesses” and that our system needs to radically change in order to be more student centered and supportive of actual learning.

This blog post is part of an ongoing discussion about problems with our traditional grading structure. Yes, letter grades have been problematic for a very long time. Currently, I see students who just want A’s regardless of the quality of their work or the effort they put into it. This causes top students to avoid taking risks as they try to regurgitate what they think the teacher wants. That behavior is anathema to learning. On the other end of the spectrum, students who continuously receive D’s and F’s reasonably decide to give up because they can’t see a way to possibly be successful. Letter grades do not support their growth as learners. While Heick doesn’t have a solution to our current grading dilemma, he does give very useful suggestions about how to work within our current system.