By Anna Dubey ‘21
Many Heschel teachers forbid discussion and sharing of grades among students, citing the right to privacy and blows to student self-esteem. These teachers fail to recognize two major flaws in their policy: first, that students share their grades regardless of regulations imploring them not to do so, and second, that students can experience numerous benefits from sharing their grades and work.
It is inevitable that students will share their grades. The vast majority of students, eager for academic competition, are hungry for knowledge about their peers’ scores and how they compare to their own. Although teachers may disapprove of students’ motives, no teacher-imposed edict on the topic can successfully regulate students’ actions outside of class, and therefore, it is futile to attempt to prevent students from sharing their grades. The best way to make any improvement is to shift the way that students compare their grades.
The current system of student grade-sharing is greatly problematic. Students now share their grades in often unproductive manners, comparing scores rather than exchanging the work that earned them. This method of sharing grades produces the issue of jealousy over grades about which teachers worry.
Sharing grades, if done in the correct way, could be highly beneficial to students’ learning. On essays and writing assignments, seeing better-scoring classmates’ work would provide lower-scoring students with examples of work to emulate. As each teacher has different grading quirks, it can be immensely helpful to see what style of writing different teachers prefer on writing assignments. Does the teacher give better grades to those who prioritize ideas over writing mechanics? Is the teacher especially impressed by certain vocabulary? Such information can be enormously helpful to students who aren’t entirely sure of their teacher’s preferences. Even beyond learning guidelines specific to the class, examining the writing of others is a helpful way to advance in one’s own writing.
A similar principle can be applied to sharing tests. By comparing tests with each other, students can learn and imitate the thought processes that others used, enabling them to improve their own scores in the future. Sharing tests also gives students the opportunity to notice grading patterns. On math tests, for example, students can compare to see whether the teacher has a tendency to give more points if students show their work especially clearly or if that isn’t one of the teacher’s priorities. Furthermore, students who erred on portions of the test and don’t understand why can figure out their mistakes easily by checking with a classmate. Comparing tests can also be useful if teachers made grading mistakes or if students wish to consult a teacher in the hopes of receiving more points for certain questions.
Because of the many benefits of this productive grade-sharing and the inevitability of grade-sharing overall, teachers should strive to have their students share grades in a way that supports their learning. This could be achieved very simply: teachers should tell their students that they may share grades if they wish, but to do so by looking over each others’ assignments carefully and making sure to learn from each others’ work. The instruction to forego competitive grade-comparing in lieu of learning from sharing graded assignments would be met with little resistance from students; every student wishes to do better and would not oppose the prospect of doing so in this method. Clearly, students would still retain autonomy over the decision of whether to share their grade and test, and teachers would ensure this by establishing that no one should be pressured to share their grade. Student jealousy would also likely not be a problem; Heschel students are mature enough not to sulk at a classmate obtaining a better score than them. Rather, with guidance from the teacher, they can learn from the experience so that they can do better. Since students already don’t — and never will — abide by the regulation to avoid sharing grades, teachers must step in to make sure that students share grades in a way that helps them to improve their work in the future.