Can a radical transparency replace grading?


Online Learning professors are famous for a new reason: Teaching

This same opportunity exists for K12 teachers.

And I wonder: if a famous teacher recommended you to another teacher or to a university, would you still need a transcript? Would that vouching potentially carry more authority than a percentage or letter grade?

I often wonder if radical transparency (through social media) might obviate completely the need for grading. If you can see all my teaching and, more importantly, see how all my students perform then you would know what my recommendation was worth. If I say to you that Sally is ready for your math class, no more needs saying as your classes and students’ work are also transparent to me; I know what will be expected of Sally and can judge the moment when she can move up.

Perhaps I can even recommend her to one particular teacher over another because I know the kind of teacher–not merely the kind of content–she needs next. That’s a novel idea–match the student to the teacher! That has to be at least as important as matching the student to the curricula, which is what we do when we group students by age and grade: we say in Grade 4 you can study pioneers, for example. In doing so we have assumed that, from the student’s point of view, one teacher is as good as the next. That leaves us with the unpleasant admission that we see all students are standardized as well. I get that this was once an administrative necessity, but maybe we are close to a time when we can leave that necessity behind.


  1. Reply
    David Theriault October 31, 2013

    So much THIS. Today I did something I have never done before. While writing letters of rec for my students (The Common App) I noticed that in the PDF upload that links are clickable. So instead of just telling the university what my students have done I showed them by linking to Instagram pics, blog posts that I had written about the students and that the students had written. It was exciting, liberating and transgressive to say the least. Once my students start writing blogs where they have 10.000+ views a year and create exciting content regularly or host a YouTube channel with 50,000 views does a university really even NEED me to make a recommendation?

    Also does membership in the teaching profession need to be the medium of recommendation? We are standing on an exciting plateau.

    • Reply
      Braddo November 1, 2013

      Fantastic! And congrats to your students for generating that level of engagement.

      I suppose there is an opportunity to game the system, which is why number of hits alone don’t make a creditable reference. I would think, though, that credibility could come from having a wide variety sources to dampen gamifying and filter bubbles.

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