Illustration by Laura Cai

Grade sharing damages teacher-student relationships

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Facing immense pressure to achieve high grades in classes overall, students often obsess over their scores. Grades are assumed to be the basis of understanding and intelligence in the school environment; they are often regarded as personal to the student. Therefore, teachers sharing students’ grades to the entire class is damaging and creates negative student perceptions of a class.  

Students are encouraged to try their best in class and ask for help with assignments or any confusion that arises. However, when they display grades of all or individual students for the class to see, it discredits teachers’ emphasis on confidentiality. Oftentimes, teachers preach the importance of connection with their students and reassure support with any issue. Showcasing students’ grades breaks that trust and creates tension between teachers and their students. Students will be less likely to reach out for help relating to schoolwork, which lowers the chances of performance improvement in the class, creating the opposite effect of the intended result. 

Circumstances may affect the individual or overall grade a student receives, and grades can become extremely stressful when balancing outside activities or family matters. Seeing their grade alongside the rest of the class is embarrassing, especially if a student is struggling due to outside issues. As students can view their classmates’ grades, it increases comparison between students and reinforces the pressure of earning high grades, rather than understanding the lesson.

Generally, names are replaced with ID numbers in an attempt to protect identity and prevent students from peer judgement. However, this solution fails to account for the instances in which teachers call upon students to announce their grade. It disrupts the process and intent behind using ID numbers if students are asked for which grade theirs is, or why they received that grade. In addition, being forced to announce one’s grade and hearing or seeing other grades may cause insecurity in their own work or work ethic. Students may feel pressured to change their work ethic, however, if they found a style that works best for them, but is not providing the same results as everyone else, it could cause further confusion. 

Besides causing anxiety to students, there is no clear reason why teachers show grades to the class. Assuming the intention is to push students who are struggling to ask for help, or to improve their grade, teachers would be approaching this in a negative manner. There is no guarantee that showing grades, and thereby supporting comparison, would have any effect for grades to improve. The best option is to simply stop showing students’ grades to the class. It would prevent any harmful side effects and make students more willing to connect with their teachers. 

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1 thought on “Grade sharing damages teacher-student relationships

  1. Thank you Amanda for talking about this important topic.
    I agree and think it can impact students in multiple ways to see their grades posted. Those who may be embarrassed when their grades are lower than their peers may become discouraged, especially nowadays when so many different factors can affect work quality and completion beyond just their effort. Also, those at the higher end may also be embarrassed and purposely hold back on some of their work so as not to draw undue attention to themselves.
    Unfortunately, I also think that some teachers may not really even be thinking about the motivation issue when they post grades, but do it simply because it is an easy and time-saving way for them to get the information out. It also puts the responsibility on the student to follow up with questions, again relieving teachers from having to make the initial contact.
    Congratulations on a well written and thought-provoking article.

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