What follows are four reasons effort shouldn't factor into grading.
Measuring effort is nearly impossible; it's vague and intangible.
- My senior year in high school, I took US Government and Calculus. Growing up in a political family, I found government easy; it came naturally to me. Calculus, on the other hand, required every ounce of effort. My year-end grades were an A and C respectively. If I were graded based on my effort though, my grades would be the inverse.
- Effort is a subjective measurement. A teacher who favors grading effort may look at factors such as amount of work attempted/completed. Measuring variables such as these don't factor in how long and hard the student worked to complete an assignment. Another teacher may wish to measure class participation in discussions and asking questions, but an introverted student may be attuned to everything and thinking but seemingly isn't participating.
- Grades should not harm the relationship between teacher and student. Effort grades increase the likelihood of conflict. During my first year of teaching, I had a problematic world geography class. Most of the students in the class were high achievers and their poor behavior was most likely indicative of lessons that didn't challenge them. In an attempt to gain control of the class, I implemented a participation grade. Students were rewarded for participation and punished for coming unprepared, disruptions, etc. My new grading procedures didn't solve the problems and the relationship between my students and I soured.
- Effort grades are often used to change behaviors through punishment. Say for example a student could earn up to 10 participation points each week. At the end of the week, the teacher (me) goes through the class roster and assigns most students 10/10 points and assigns students who exhibited disruptive behaviors 5/10 points, hoping this will motivate the student to change his/her behavior. Rarely--if ever--will this change the behavior. Using grades as extrinsic motivators to control student behavior does not work.
- When a student tries hard but is barely succeeding, educators' hearts ache and we feel tremendous guilt. Feeling a passion for that student, we reward that student's effort but at the end of the year they haven't met the course's standards. It's not until the end of the course test or the next year that it is learned that student has academic weaknesses that need addressing.