Davidson and the commenters make good points, especially about an internet culture in which everyone feels empowered--nay, entitled--to pass judgment on any random piece of writing available on the web. We're all being judged constantly anyway, goes the argument, and students will be judged by peers and outsiders in the workplace, so why not in
Advocating crowdsourcing, contract grading, written evaluation and other forms of assessment (including self- and group-assessment, which studies show is often far more rigorous than external assessment if the forms of the assessment are set up in the correct way) is not to say we don't want standards. Quite the opposite. It is to say that there are forms of knowledge and standards of excellence that certain systems do not test, so having complementary systems is good.She then goes on to say that feedback (comments) and not grades should be the focus, and I'd agree.
Davidson offers a more complete version at http://dmlcentral.net/blog/cathy-davidson/crowdsourcing-authority-in-classroom in which she says that her students asked her to rethink grading in terms of this new paradigm and she concludes "They were right." I'm not sure whether she means that she decided that she needed to give grades, or that she needed to hand over the process of grading to students, but she ends with this: "In the workplace and in our communities, we have to learn more about how to make judgments, to offer feedback, and to take criticism from those who are not 'the boss of us.'"
Well, yes, we do need to learn more about this process, but I'd say that part of learning about the process is giving feedback about what constitutes good and bad feedback. Nuanced, intelligent responses = good. (And you will never, ever, see a more polite and adulatory comment thread than the one at HASTAC.) Twitter piranha-like ganging up on a speaker = Lord of the Flies. Are the student graders assessed on their grading abilities, and, if so, who makes that determination--Davidson or the other students?
I guess what I'm trying to work through is that somehow, somewhere, there's always going to be an Invisible Hand of the Professor that's responsible for correcting the market forces of commentary and assessment. In reading through this material, I'm trying to figure out specifically where and how that invisible hand touches the grading process.