Marks are really rather arbitrary. I have this fear, when marking, that I’ll double mark a paper/project submitted by a student (i.e. I’ll mark it once with comments and a grade…and then, because I forgot I had already marked it, do the same again)…and provide completely different comments or even a different grade. A prof at U of Ottawa decided to take a different approach: Give every student an A+ at the start of the course. In his words:
It was not his job, as he explained later, to rank their skills for future employers, or train them to be “information transfer machines,” regurgitating facts on demand. Released from the pressure to ace the test, they would become “scientists, not automatons,” he reasoned.
Of course, the tenured prof was fired.
The use of grading for evaluating students is recent, all owed to William Farish.
UPDATE: Just noticed D’Arcy Norman had already posted on this: “As we continue moving toward a more individual and portfolio-driven assessment of a person’s abilities, philosophies, and educational contexts, grades become less meaningful anyway.”