The week of March 24, 2014, topic: grading practices that encourage curiosity, risk taking, and help reduce the stigma of failure. Now I know that grading is a hot topic and selfishly I wanted to moderate because I needed to get my thoughts straight about grades. The conversation completely met my expectation.
I first started off by getting participants to think about their own experience with grades from all perspectives: student, teacher, parent. I wasn’t too surprised that most reacted the same way I felt, that grades don’t really communicate the kind of learning that is really happening for our students. Several of us had negative feelings about grades on all three levels and thought that traditional grading practices just don’t jive with what we are trying to get students to do.
Next, I wanted to know what participants’ grades truly reflected. I asked them to be honest. I know that no change can take place unless you “own” what it is you want changed. So, if we want to change the way our grading systems operate, we were going to have to own up to anything in our grades that caused them not to accurately reflect the learning we want to document from our students. Many teachers use rubrics and standard based grading, but several found that translating the rubric score into a percentage/letter grade just wasn’t working and questioned the validity of the grade. I find myself in this boat. I strive to get my students away from the number, the letter, but ultimately it is the system we have. Peter Strawn said it best…
This is truly the conundrum and why our traditional system is flawed. Peter goes on to question…
I believe that students are so conditioned to go after the “A”, but what does that mean? Most parents are also conditioned to think that if their child turns in all of their work that the child will receive an A. What has an “A” become? Documentation of compliance? This is where we, as professionals, will need to make sound, professional decisions. We know that we want our students to love learning, have several opportunities to reach proficiency, and not let failure deter them from success. We need to remember…
What I liked best about the conversation is that everyone was honest, helpful, and truly reflecting on their grading practices. One of my favorite questions asked participants to design their dream grading system. These responses are what grades should be all about:
This, too, is my dream and I plan to move more towards a system next year that fosters the love of learning and allows students to see their growth. I also want to involve the global community in that process, give my students a stage if you will. Feedback from more than the teacher is powerful. How am I going to do this? With baby steps. Goal #1:
It starts with creating the culture for learning. It will be hard to reprogram students and parents, but I am up to the challenge. The whole educational system is changing. The system used to grade the learning in that system needs to change too.
Bonus Material: One of my favorite tweets of the week:
This is a sign of good thought provoking conversation. #slowchatED is the perfect twitter chat that allows for deep thinking and the time to process all ideas. Kudos to David Theriault, the mastermind behind the chat, and may you find yourself involved in the conversation soon.