The curious case of the reluctance to grade

gradedpaperMore faculty than ever are interested in taking advantage of the digital submission capability of their learning management system. It provides them easier access to student work with a minimum of administration time.  In order to use digital submission, in both BlackBoard and Canvas, you must assign a point value to the assignment.  However, there seems to be a curious reluctance on the part of faculty to create a point value and give a score to students.

These faculty are more than willing to spend time looking at the students ‘ work and even give written feedback.  They  are also experienced enough to know that the bright object that catches the student eye is a grade. It is a real motivator.  Why then the reluctance to assign a score?

At least one professor avowed that these are low stakes assignments and he did not want to put any additional “pressure” on students by assigning a grade.

It’s possible that faculty think that, because they spent time looking at and responding to student work that the student already understands that the work is important. A precise grade is not necessary.

Is the general unwillingness to assign a cold hard number due to the teacher’s  uncertainty about what they want the student to get from the assignment?

Lastly, is there is just the faintest breath of fear of student negative reaction as a possible motivation?

As the usefulness of digital submission continues to increase in importance, how can these questions be asked in a way that generates an honest discussion?