the nicholls worth

Emphasis on grades detrimental to learning


With finals just around the corner, many students will be preparing to cram as much of the semester into their head for one final test, and there lies a major flaw in our education system.

Learn information, forget information, cram information, recall information, forget information, repeat. Many students can remember a time when they did this familiar dance with a class over the course of a semester. What is taught is only retained for the next test and then it is forgotten until it is needed again, and at that point it’s re-learned before a test. This routine of only retaining information for a test is because of the high emphasis placed on getting high scores on tests in lieu of getting an education for the sake of increasing knowledge.

Throughout a student’s schooling years, they are asked to learn information and recall it at any time for a test. However, it would be naïve to think that all students have memorized the course material and aredoing just that – simply recalling information onto the sheet of paper in front of them. Tests are normally set in advance and therefore give students time to prepare for them. Preparing for tests means cramming to make it by for some.
There is a place for tests, but what is education if it is only good for a few weeks? What good is it if most of the knowledge is based solely on making the grade that is most desired?

The problem starts at the top. Administrators and officials at every level need numbers and grades to show that their methods are working. Administrators and officials need numbers and grades to know who is and isn’t meeting their standards.

But education is cumulative. One class builds on the next, and if students are flushing the knowledge they’ve gained once they’ve earned the grade they believe that they need, then it creates a perpetual cycle of panicked studying weeks or days before the test, trying to cram in years of know-how into as little time as possible.

Some will say that this is the fault of the student. It’s the responsibility of the student to retain information beyond the point of need. It’s the responsibility of the student to prepare in such a way that cramming isn’t necessary.

However, it must also be mentioned that getting an education is a full-time job. If a student is taking 15 hours in a semester, you can be sure that the students on the higher end of the grading scale are putting in at least as much time out of class. At the same time, students today are working more than ever before. A 2013 survey by Citigroup and Seventeen magazine said that nearly 80 percent of college students have a part-time job, and some work more.

With this in mind, it’s obvious how an overempahsis on As and Bs can cause an unnecessary amount of stress that doesn’t properly facilitate learning and promotes simple regurgitation of information over retention of knowledge.
Yes, grades are important. Yes, testing is important. However, for us to make use of education, it’s time to place a larger emphasis on learning in a way that will benefit students 10 to 15 years from now, not 10 to 15 days from now.

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The student newspaper of Nicholls State University
Emphasis on grades detrimental to learning