This article from Everyday Sociology blog should be required reading for teachers, students, parents, and, well, everybody actually. It gets at the heart of the problem with our education system, which beyond administrative and financial problems, is woefully inadequate win capturing the overall aptitude of students – even colleges and universities, despite their better quality, fail in this regard:
Many people would probably say that grades measure how smart you are. The problem with this assumption is that in most educational contexts grades only measure two types of intelligence: linguistic and logical-mathematical. According Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences there are at least five other types of intelligence: musical, bodily (kinesthetic), spatial, interpersonal, and intrapersonal. As we all know, most of these other forms of intelligence will not get you a place on the honor roll.
Basing grades on just two types of intelligence becomes especially problematic when we consider some of the other things that people think grades measure, such as self worth and potential. In our culture, the power and persuasion of grades is so strong that many students are socialized to believe that their grades in school reflect who they are and what they will become. How many times have you heard someone define a young person defined by their grades: “She’s an A student. We expect great things from her.” “He’s not that smart. He’s barely getting C’s.”
Indeed, and how many times have we heard of creative or eccentric students, who don’t conform to the standard curriculum, end up barely passing school, thus being condemned as troubled or unintelligent? Standardization is necessary to some degree, but the one-size-fits-all measurement of grades is unsuitable for encouraging the sort of independence and individuality on which true intelligence (and success) thrives.
It is also helpful to not define your learning by your grades. Just because you got a “bad grade” does not necessarily mean that you did not learn anything in a class. Too often, students may feel like all they get out of a course is the grade. As an alternative, try to leave each class and reflect on what intellectual, social, or personal insights you gained from the class regardless of the number or letter that was assigned to you.
Lastly, I would suggest that you not structure your entire educational experience around grades. Despite the prevailing sentiment that you may hear from peers, parents, and society, your sole purpose in school should not be to get a high GPA. In fact, a few years ago a study was conducted to determine what college students did to have the most enjoyable and intellectually fulfilling college experience. The book, Making the Most of College: Students Speak Their Minds, lists a number of recommendations and none of them mention anything about focusing on grades.
Being in it for the grades does not promote real intelligence or dedication. That is a perversity of the education system.