How often do you come across a student or peer who doesn’t speak the same way as you? How many people do you know with different cultural backgrounds? Whether your answer is one or many, the fact that everyone isn’t the same is important.
English classes often have set standards or grading scales when it comes to writing papers or analyzing writing. Some may argue that it’s important to have a set scale where students are graded based on where they stand on that scale. However, I would argue that it’s more important to grade students based on where they started on the scale compared to where they ended. Growth mindset isn’t just about opening yourself up to new ideas, but it’s also about growth of the mind over a period of time.
Many students with different backgrounds, starting at different levels of writing or as some say, “intelligence” levels. It’s important that we take these unique backgrounds into consideration when using a grading system. Everyone has different levels of intelligence, which is shown in multiple different ways and not in just one subject or on one assignment. Personally, I believe that English class assignments should be graded based on improvement rather than on a set scale or standard. Though a student may learn to understand their material, they may not receive a good overall grade. For example, if a student were to get a poor grade on their essay about a particular topic, that grade would stay in the gradebook permanently. But what if that student continues to learn in that class and improves drastically on the same topic later on? Well, though they now understand the material, they are punished by the first grade they received. People may argue that this could be said for many other classes. However, English classes are primarily subjective whereas math, science, and other courses are often objective.
Referring to past tutor, Gigi Shipp’s “Changing the Definition of Writing: Moving Away from the White Standard,” it’s important to acknowledge that a good majority of English classes try to teach a “white standard” form of writing to students, ignoring the importance of different backgrounds and ways of speaking. Going back to the set standard idea, it’s important to note that different backgrounds allow for different levels of knowledge and a “set scale” or standard doesn’t reflect that knowledge. How can we alter the grading scale to fit the needs of different backgrounds, cultures, and the idea of improvement based grading? How can we do so fairly in a way that teachers would agree with? There are many questions to be answered, but the importance of reducing “set standards” needs to first be embraced through the students.