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Learning should be more important then grades

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/5/2014 Category: Education
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,640 times Debate No: 45294
Debate Rounds (3)
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School should be more focused on teaching students concepts that will actually help them after they move on into the working path of life, but know it seems that the only thing that matters is getting that 50% and over, if you where to go to any student and ask them what they had learnt in their previous mathematic class they would most likely know their grade then what they learnt. Society now has started to form the idea that the only thing that matters in winning, its that sense of "just getting to the finish line no matter what". Students are literally told to memorize something without knowing what it even means and memorizing it to later write it on a test. Now when a student walks into a test they simply think about whether they will "fail" or "pass" the test not whether they understood the information they where given.


Thanks for the topic itsmanuela.


The dictionary defines "grade" as affixing a "rank, quality, proficiency, intensity, or value."

I will negate the resolution by arguing, alternatively, that: (1) grades are more or *equally* important as learning or (2) that grades are such an important proxy for learning that the two concepts cannot coherently be separated.

The following is my case for why grades are important.

==Why are grades important?==

(1) Grades provide feedback to the student

Students might *feel* that they understand the material or that they are learning. However, that subjective feeling must be tested by some objective, external measurement. A student that *thinks* has learned the material may have a rude awakening when he takes a quiz and scores 20/100. Without this external feedback, the student would never know whether he truly understood. Psychological studies have found that all people have a natural bias to believe that they are above average. For students, this translates to most students believing that they have above average knowledge of the subject matter. Without external feedback to dissipate this bias, students that don't really understand the material would not realize that they need to study more or harder.

(2) Grades provide a signal to others

When a high school student applies to college, one major factor that the admissions office considers is: grades. When college students apply to graduate school, the admissions office again considers grades. When students apply for a job, the employer considers the students grades. Without grades, post-secondary schools and employers will have no way to know whether the student learned the material well or badly. Employers would obviously prefer to hire computer programmers and lawyers who achieved top grades rather than those that received the worst grades because top grades are a proxy for learning. The students with the best grades learned the material better than the other students and are therefore likely to make better workers. UC Santa Cruz, for example, used to have a holistic rating system, where each student merely received an "essay" as feedback from each professor. The campus switched to grades so that graduate schools would have some legitimate way to measure students' performance (against each other and against other students from other schools).

(3) Grades are an important motivator

When grades do not exist, students often feel like the assignment does not matter. [1] Compare results of students on graded and ungraded assignments, and you will see a huge gap in effort for most students (if they do the ungraded assignment at all). Grades signal to students that the assignment should be taken seriously [although grades do not have to be the *only* motivator that a teacher uses, they are an important tool in the toolbox].

(4) Grades mimic real-world meritocracy-based systems

When a student moves on the job-world, he or she will be evaluated based on some objective metric of performance. A salesperson's performance is measured by the total number of sales that the person makes over given period of time. A CEO's performance is measured by the performance of the company's stock over his or her tenure. A surgeon's performance is measured by how many successful versus botched surgeries he or she performs. Students are going to be measured in the job-world, and their ability to advance in their careers and receive raises will be contingent on their ability to get feedback and to adapt to that feedback. A student who gets a C and learned to change it to an A gets an important life lesson. A student who always gets all A+'es and then gets a B in his or her first college course and uses this experience to learn not to slack in order to continually achieve excellence in life also learns an important lesson.

(5) It is incoherent to talk about "learning" without discussing grading

My opponent talks repeatedly about how students should care more about whether they are learning rather than getting more than a 50% on a test. However, a student who cannot answer more than 50% of the math questions correctly has not actually learned enough of the material to be proficient in math. My opponent claims that someone is more likely to remember their grades from a course than their actual learning. However, I disagree. Personally, I don't remember the exact grades I got in middle school, but I remember how to do algebra; I remember the grammar rules I learned in English class; I remember genetics and the fruit fly experiments we did in biology class. And yet I distinctly remember times where I didn't *want* to study for those classes, but I did anyway because I was afraid of getting bad grades and jeopardizing my future. Grades were an important motivator for the substantive learning and the only way to actually measure whether I had learned the subject matter. So it is incoherent to talk about whether a student has learned a certain subject matter, without somehow grading their knowledge. Without some tangible form of knowledge, any attempt of a student or teacher to figure out how much a student had learned would be nothing more than a subjective guess based on cognitive bias (such as a teacher saying that students who he or she liked "knew" the material better). Without grades, students that did not talk much during class would likely be marginalized because the teacher would assume they had not learned anything.

Thus, I negate the resolution and argue that grades are at least important as learning because they are a key proxy for learning and the concept of whether a student has "learned" something in a class is so *intertwined* with grading that it does not make sense to talk about learning without talking about grades (whether grading means letter grades, class rank, percentages, or even qualitative comparisons).

Debate Round No. 1


You talked about universities and colleges wanting the students with the best grades rather then the ones with the worst but what sense would it make to have for example a 90% average on Calculus when taking an art or writing class? At the end of the day good grades are made by those that can read information and memorize it to later on write it down on a paper. There is a reason why universities and colleges have math courses teaching students how to solve math problems that students in middle school are learning, it is simply because they didn't remember how to do math equations that maybe a grade 10 student would find easy, it is because at the time they needed to know it they memorized it, they did not actually learn it. Learning should be based on studying what is is a person wants to do to later use in life and half the things that are learnt in school are stuff that are not usually used in the working world. The education system now a days is based on the idea of winning, it docent matter whether you know why or what happens during the respiration system in biology, just as long as you can memorize the terms and step it is easy to get that good grade and with good grades come great reputations at school. Instead of learning something that is relevant to the students life and goal, schools promote the idea of grades. Students in High school take courses that they normally would not need to get into college, but again its the idea of "if i get good grades in this class, universities will be more accepting towards me" which later leads to stress because again for example why would someone that wants to be an artist be taking Physics.


My opponent makes a number of arguments which I will attempt to group and refute.

1) *A writing major or artist does not need good grades in math or physics to suceed in life*

I have two responses. First, my opponent is incorrect. Grades are a proxy for effort. Colleges look at grades in high school because they are the best predicators of success during college, regardless of major. Two studies of the UC system found that "high-school grade point average [] is consistently the best predictor not only of freshman grades in college [] but of four-year college outcomes as well." [1] Malcolm Gladwell also discusses in the book Outliers that the best predictor of good performance in math and science was completion percentage of the *optional* quesitonnaire during the TIMSS test. Students who had the patience to fill out more option questions did better in performance.

The lesson is that even if a student is not *naturally* proficient at a given subject, the student learns something extremely valuable (patience) from having to expend effort to learn a difficult subject. Colleges want students who have learned *how to learn.* Grades are a proxy for whether a student has learned how to learn. A student who has acquired this important skill can carry it forward to *any major* or to *anything* in life. Without grades, students have less of an incentive to work hard in difficult subjects. Students would simply give up and focus only on the subjects they liked, because there would be no downside. Grades help teach patience and teach students how to learn.

2) *Half the things used in school are not useful in the real world*

I don't really believe in this premise [since a background in science helps people understand the world, history helps people be responsible citizens, and writing is useful in every job], but regardless, the topic asks my opponent to argue in favor of *learning.* If half the things we *learn* are not useful in the real world, my opponent loses. I argue above that grades help us learn a *process* for learning and help us to learn how to be *extrinsically motivated.*

To the extent my opponent is right - that we forget half what we learn - this just proves why the Pro side in today's debate should lose: because *learning* is temporary, but grades have longer term benefits. Grades are a badge of honor that can help you get a good job or graduate school placement years later. And grades help you learn a process that will always be useful to you.

3) *People just memorize to get high test scores*

I have two responses to this. First, not every class is susceptible to memorization tests. English classes are often graded based on essay assignments. And some classes *require* memorization. It is impossible to learn chemistry without memorizing which compounds react with which other compounds. It is impossible to learn biology with memorizing some of the basic nomenclature and biological structures. Some basic background knowledge is required in every course that at some point needs to be memorized. We probably all know our multiplication tables by heart by now. But at some time, we all had to memorize multiplication. It is a faulty premise to state that "everything that is the result of memorization is useless knowledge."

Second, straight memorization tests are evidence of a bad teacher, not evidence that grading is bad. It is possible to re-design the test so that it requires more critical thinking. For example, my AP US History course had tests that were primarily essay-based, to mirror the AP exam. While my teacher *could have* simply asked us to recite facts and dates we had memorized, instead he required us to perform our own original analysis of history, in light of those facts and circumstances. In so requiring, I became a better writer. Without the incentive of grades, I would not have been motivated to work as hard for that class.

Conclusion: memorization sometimes has its place as a valid learning tool. To the extent that it is overused in the classroom, that is the teacher's fault. Memorization is not inherent to "learning" or to "grading."

Lastly, extend all my dropped arguments.

1. Grades provide key feedback to students that help with learning a *process* and with *course correction,* so that students whose own subjective judgment about how much they have learned is *wrong* can correct course and study harder.

2. Grades are an important signal to others. Colleges would lose a key predictive tool if grades were not allowed and a more subjective measurement of "learning" were used. Employers would have no idea who to hire. Students who worked really hard in high school and college would not be rewarded for that effort. Students who interview well, but got terrible grades and will be lazy workers, will steal jobs from people who would have normally been straight A students.

3. Grades an important motivator. Students have less of an incentive to learn and work hard without grades. Grades help teach extrinsic motivation, which is an important source of motivation in our society.

4. Grades prepare students for outcome-based measurement systems that are used in every meritocracy system in our society. Without grades, students will be shocked when something more is expected than them than simply a subjective sense that they are "learning."

5. It is impossible to talk about "learning" without grades. I defined grades very broadly to include any form of measuring student performance, which could include letter grades (A, B, C, D, F), some other grading system (High Pass, Pass, Low Pass [like at Harvard Law School]), or a qualitative ranking system, where teachers rank student performance based on a totality of circumstances. Without measuring "learning," how could we even talk about learning? Without grades, to answer George W. Bush's question - "Is our children learning?" - the answer would be, "We have no idea, let's hope so."

Debate Round No. 2


itsmanuela forfeited this round.


Forfeit, aka vote for meeee,
Debate Round No. 3
No comments have been posted on this debate.
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by iamanatheistandthisiswhy 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:07 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro displayed horrible grammar and arguments which made no sense and had no logical reasoning behind them. As such points must go to Con for arguments and S&G. Conduct points go to Con, as Pro forfeited the final round. Source points have to go to Con, as Con had sources and Pro sourced nothing besides the Huff Post Blog/opinion piece.
Vote Placed by Zaradi 2 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: FF. You were winning on arguments anyway.
Vote Placed by bsh1 2 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: ff