Katrina Schwartz is one of my favorite writers at Mind/Shift, so I was really excited when I saw her latest article today:
Katrina's article is in turn a summary of this article in The Atlantic: Why Grades Are Not Paramount to Achievement
The intrinsic love of learning supplants the drive for high marks in the long run by Ashley Lamb-Sinclair.
I hope people will take the time to read one or the other; here's a quote you will find in Katrina's quick article at Mind/Shift:
Educators Ashley Lamb-Sinclair experimented with not giving grades for the first six weeks of the school year at the high-achieving high school where she works. She was amazed at the intrinsic motivation students had to persist on a task until they improved when the pressure of a grade wasn’t present. She writes that she had incredible communications with parents about their children’s learning during those six weeks and that the gradeless period went smoothly. That is, until she had to start grading again. As soon as a 100-point scale was present parents and students forgot all the value they had seen in the learning process and focused only on points.
I personally think this is one of the most important discussions we can be having about schooling today. If there is going to be a movement to get away from the harm done by traditional grading, that movement has to come from the bottom up, from students and teachers themselves. Grades are very convenient for administrators... but are grades really helping students in their learning and growth? For learning and growth, you need feedback, but grades are one of the worst forms of feedback I can imagine. One of my biggest frustrations with the Canvas Gradebook is that it is completely numbers-based; there is no way to escape from the tyranny of the percentage there.
My solution: I use a points-based system where the students record their completed work via "declaration" quizzes, and they watch their total points accumulate. It is all about work completed, which means every student always has 100% in the Gradebook. Some students have more points than others, but that's because each student is choosing just which assignments they want to complete, and ultimately what grade they want to get (since I do still have to report a final grade at the end of the semester for each student). With this system, I don't do any grading; I just give the students narrative feedback. Lots of feedback. I've written about my all-feedback-no-grades approach here: Grading.MythFolklore.net, and you can always find new ideas and inspiration at the #TTOG stream at Twitter; that's Teachers Throwing Out Grades.
Yes, we un-graders are a small minority... but we are a vocal minority, and you can get so many great ideas from seeing how these teachers are finding their own ways to escape the trap of grading, one classroom at a time. Want to learn more? Try reading the short article at Mind/Shift or the more detailed article at The Atlantic and see what you think!