A world without grades

I’m taking a small digression from technology stuff to think about what a world without grades might look like. Why? Because of this post on the Chronicle’s site. To think that grades or the lack there of could cause such a situation just seems absurd.

A google seach for “a world without grades” turned up no page with such a title. In fact the results on the first page contained two relevant items:

As I looked at these items I began to wonder just how our world would function in the absence of these “performance” indicators. I’ve known for a long time that grades are a very poor indicator of learning. I got straight As through high school and college, but my wife remembers a lot more from the classes we both took than I do. She clearly learned the material and understands how to apply it. What I learned to do was play the system. I learned how to identify what information I needed to know and when I no longer needed to know it. In my own teaching I see a lot of students that have learned the same thing. So I try to incorporate projects that require them to use the concepts we are learning, but in the end our educational system demands some way of identifying which students have learned the material the best. If grades don’t really fulfill this role then what does? What is the best way to measure learning and understanding? Is there a best way? Could the world function without grades?