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March 16, 2010

A, B, C, D, F.

Most college students are familiar with traditional letter grades. Kirkland’s students, however, received typed narrative evaluations for each course or independent study.

sample evaluation

Contributed by Isabel Weinger-Nielsen K'76 (click on image for full size)

According to the 1976-1977 Particulars catalog, “Evaluations are personal, written statements from each professor, describing in detail your strengths and weaknesses in the course, your intellectual growth, and how you responded to the demands of the course.”

Kirkland’s use of evaluations removed grade-driven competition and fostered collaborative learning. Offering constructive feedback, evaluations often served as a useful blueprint for students’ future academic pursuits.

Other alternative colleges, like Kirkland, have used written evaluations as the sole assessment of a student’s work. These included Goddard, Hampshire, Evergreen State, and New College of Florida.

Did You Know?

Written evaluations had to be “translated” into letter grades for some graduate school applications. This did not hold Kirkland students back. Alumnae from the graduating classes of 1971 through 1981 have received more than 780 graduate degrees—everything from a PhD, MD, MA, and MFA to a JD, MBA, MSW, and MS—including doctorates in divinity, dentistry, veterinary medicine, philosophy, education, and psychology.

Letter on translating evaluations, Courtesy Katherine Collett, Hamilton Archivist

by Jo Pitkin K’78

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