Sunday, January 19, 2014

To Grade, or Not to Grade? That is the Question!

I have been to study groups, teacher learning groups, read many texts, and had discussions with fellow educators concerning the idea of grading. The idea behind grading is that it gives students an idea of how well s/he did with their work and, if the teacher is providing feedback, how one can improve on their work. The idea behind not grading is that the student will then not be focused on the grade, but learning. Now, I will admit, I struggled with this when this thought first came about because I am a grade incentive person (personally). I strive for an 'A' when I attend classes, wanting to learn also. I will say that as a teacher I see the benefit of a student not focusing on a grade. I have had and currently have students who only focus on the grade. "How can I get a better grade?" or "What can I do to get an 'A' in this class?" is asked by some students. My reply is "What can you do to show me you learned this skill?" This stumps many students, as s/he are not used to being asked HOW they can show their learning, but are used to being told what to do in their learning. This change in mind-set is difficult, to say the least. I am having to explain my thinking more to students and have lengthy discussions about what I mean by my question -("What can you do to show me you learned this skill?"). I am fine with this, but why is this such a new concept? It really should not be at this point in time. This thinking has been around for a few years, yet many schools are still not adhering to this thinking. "Why?!" I want to move in this direction, in a more direct fashion. I want to drop grades all together and only use standards to measure student success. My question this week is, can this be done successfully as one teacher in a middle school? Or, does it need to be a group doing this, in order for it to be successful?

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