Rethinking grading on a curve

Adam Grant, author of Give and Take and Originals, argues that universities should start grading on absolute terms instead of on a curve. Grading on a curve, he explains, can "create an atmosphere that’s toxic by pitting students against one another. At best, it creates a hypercompetitive culture, and at worst, it sends students the message that the world is a zero-sum game: Your success means my failure." 

When he tested out grading on absolute terms, he noticed his students were better at finding the knowledge they needed in each other. One student told him, “Your class has changed the way students work together. I’ve never seen a group of students so willing to help one another succeed.” 

Her note, he believes, points to another powerful reason to abandon grading on a curve: 

Colleges today are trying to deal with a substantial suicide risk among students and growing rates of depression and anxiety. On my most optimistic days, I wonder whether campus mental health would improve if more classes were designed to encourage participants to support one another. Would students be better off if they saw classmates as people who had their back, rather than as people who might stab them in the back?
Posted on September 14, 2016 .