Grades vs Learning: Which Would You Choose?

Taylor Welch, Journalist

Imagine you were offered a choice: to go through a class, learn everything entirely, yet get terrible grades, or go through a class learning none of the material, yet still get an “A.” Which would you choose?  Most high school students nowadays would choose the second option.  They would much rather get a good grade in the class and not know any of the material than risk getting an F.  Students around the country are starting to feel as though school is becoming more about getting “As” and “Bs” rather than actually learning new things.  There are many aspects of the average high school student’s life that contribute to this theory.  The stress of college applications, desire to fit in, and pressure from parents and peers to do well can be overwhelming.  

As a student at Ipswich High School, Senior Meaghan Cullen would know as well as anyone how stressful and competitive the college application process is.  She stated that she understands how important grades are to the school’s decision and explains that even though everybody has their strengths and weaknesses, “We are constantly sent the message that our grades define our intelligence and capabilities.” Many students feel as though the grade that they receive in a class reflects who they are as a person, therefore creating more pressure to receive and maintain good grades.

Students are starting to do whatever they can to get an “A,” even if it means looking at outside sources for answers. Ever since grading has become so serious and important to a student’s future, cheating and copying have started to become a bigger issue for schools all around the country. Students would not be so motivated to look for answers elsewhere if grades were not such a huge part of their future success.  Cheating and copying does not have any way of helping a student learn the material; therefore students would rather get the right answers and not understand, than try and fail.

High school students are not only put under so much pressure to succeed for college, but they also receive pressure from their peers and parent figures.  Getting less than a ‘B’ in a class could result in a punishment from their parents or jokes from their friends. So rather than genuinely work to learn the material, they will cram, memorize and do whatever it takes for them to get the grades they (and their parents and friends) would desire. Cramming to memorize material does not help students in the long run whatsoever.  The main goal of students who cram for exams is to memorize the facts just long enough to get an A on the exam, then forget it after.  

Although grades do provide a sort of motivation to try and get students to learn the material, they destroy any aspects of intrinsic motivation from students.  They are no longer motivated for the right reason: legitimate knowledge. Some students need grades as motivation if they lack the internal motivation, but even so, grades do not serve as a positive motivational source.  Meaghan says that she understands, “that it is difficult to motivate students  to learn without something like grades, but on the other hand, it’s also difficult to go through years of schooling believing you are defined by letters of the alphabet.”  IMG_2505