Grading as policing…just wow

Tuka Al-Sahlani

Madoré et al, “Resisting Surveillance” (JITP)

“The growing critical literature on grading tells us that grades reflect graders’ biases, too often replicating normative definitions of “good” writing, participation, or comportment contingent on white, cis, straight, middle/upper class, non-disabled, English monolingual ideals (Kynard 2008).”

This made me pause and reflect. I know grading is subjective, especially in writing courses, especially in writing courses with mostly multilingual and diverse students, but what I have seemed to miss is that I was/am participating in exclusionary practices. I have read about upgrading and contractual grading ( which this piece critiques) from a pedagogical perspective of serving the whole student and creating space for differentiation and universal design. However,  I have not encountered the perspective of grading as a means of policing and surveillance– at least nothing that has made me pause in awe. I have been thinking about revising my grading system in my undergraduate class, but have been delaying implementing it because of the labor required to make such changes. After reading this article,  I cannot delay the changes. There is a sense of urgency that I felt from this article, and justifiably so, seeing that austerity is becoming the means of managing CUNY currently. Thinking of precarity though, I know that teaching small or in this case upgrading small will be a better way to sustain change in the long run. Now, I am thinking: What small grading changes can I make in the remainder of the semester to avoid some policing in my course?