Grades, marks, tests, examinations, correcting, correcting, correcting. The whole weekend, reading one after another the same stuff, trying to decipher the hyeroglipic writing of some students, that have been trying to answer what they thought I expected them to answer what I asked in the test. Exam situation: one hour of students sitting there (or four, in the case of Abitur Klausuren!), sweating, nervous, trying to find a chance to take a glance to what the friend is writing because he feels so desperate, has no idea what I am asking. At home, the teacher, wondering how it is possible that 70% of the students did not reach the minimum to pass (60% of correctness). What did I do wrong? Ok, admit it, many kids are lazy, I say to myself and my colleagues confirm it wisely. Nowadays? this new generation? Nobody wants to study! This generation… everything is wrong. Too much technology. No concentration abilities, no perseverance. In the former days, we were all better students….
But deep inside me, by night, I feel that something is not right. What’s the use of handing out the tests with horrible grades? Some of the kids don´t care. Others are shocked. Others ashamed. Other pretend not to care. Others cry. I have to admit that these are the most horrible situations in my job. (And the funny thing is that somehow kids think that teachers enjoy the moment, that we enjoy giving low marks).
What about learning?
Throwing out grades is something that I have been reading a lot in the last weeks. Suddenly, it seems that grades are useless, that they do not reflect learning. Grades put the focus on competition, and shifts away of the real learning. They apparently are a subjective view, that not necessarily reflects what the student learned. What are we grading? How do we grade skills?
A good example that personally made me -perhaps- more open to this new approach. A friend of my son tried the admission to a school this year. He was 11 years old and prepared himself very hardly on the fours subjects that would be evaluated. He was highly motivated and spent more than 6 months with hours of his free time with teachers to prepare him. He failed. He cried, and so did I, because I felt so miserable about such an horrible frustration, the broken illusion, the effort of a kid. Blown away with 4 grades. One day, four examinations. Nothing else. No feedback. Just the phone call and the cold news: admission failed. After insisting,the family was able to see the evaluations. No feedback from the evaluating teachers, though.
Yesterday I talked to the mom, she is a good friend of mine. She told me he is willing to try again again.
Why is perseverance, resilience, the ability to overcome such an incredibly frustrating experience, motivation, not recognized as part of the admission process? We are talking about a 12 years old boy who has a clear goal and does everything possible to get there. What about giving him a chance to catch up with contents throughout the year? Of course, I am not fully blaming the school, system is system. But what about questioning ourselves and trying to change the unchangeable?
Having students involved in their own assessment is an idea that I now began to incorporate in my planning. I bought the book “Hacking Assessment” by Starr Sackstein, and got some very interesting ideas. I share it on this sketchnote (figure 1).
I don´t dream of a full school implementation. I hardly dare to comment it with my colleagues. My only objective now is to try with a learning unit. Having the students driving their own learning, guided by their classmates and their own thoughts.
Until next unit, which I have to plan very carefully, I still have the winter holidays. In the meanwhile, I already approached some strategies. For the prevention campaigns projects (the infographics are now finished), I began sending G-forms for peer-feedback on the infographics (see figure 2).
Once the groups receive the feedback and decide to improve according to their peer suggestions (I camouflaged myself as a peer in the G form) or not, we will finish the unit with a longer self-assessment questionnaire. (see part of it in figure 3). I incorporated two questions from the abovementioned book I liked a lot for metacognition: “which were the major challenges and how did you overcome them”, and “if you could do it again, what would you make different”. I think they are very powerfull questions.
Let´s see how it goes and if my own subjective teacher-centered appreciation differs too much from their own. And we will decide together how to grade this project. As grades are mandatory… still.
For more information you can visit the following URLs:
- TG2: teachers going gradeless
- Edutopia: about PBL and going gradeless
- Follow Starr Sackstein @mmsackstein
- Follow #TTOG (teachers throw out grades)
- Pernille Ripp´s webpage
- Education week (teacher): great article about “extra credits”
Thanks @langwitches, as always, for lighting another small fame and always keep suggesting sources!