Grow beyond grades.
Ask a teacher why they teach, or what they hope for their students, and they will share some powerful thoughts — “I believe all kids can succeed”, “I want students to be curious, ask questions, and enjoy learning new things”, and “As a teacher, I aim to cultivate society.”
Much of the evidence for the gradeless movement focuses on its positive effect on students, as it should. However, when reflecting on the impact of deciding to shift away from traditional grading practices, I realize how much it taught me.
As I was planning my return to the classroom in the winter and spring of 2017, I found myself doing as much reading as I could to learn the different ways to teach students more effectively.
Grades are meant to be representative of a child’s progress. If a student is doing well, they receive an A or B, 3’s or 4’s. Often overlooked is the actual measure of progress: feedback. If you want to tackle objectives for a student, look no further than descriptive notes that highlight strengths and weaknesses.
It made sense to me that kids should not be labeled with numbers. With every new story that was shared, I became more interested. Despite this, I was certain of one thing:
I made a simple but effective change to my explanation of the system: I started referring to these courses as averageless instead of gradeless.
This little tweak has led to profound changes in the way I talk to students about their writing and the way they respond to my feedback. I’ve also seen an incredibly positive impact on their growth as writers.
I was never quite certain if my students actually took the time to read or if they understood my comments. I didn’t know if they had questions or concerns. Assessing in isolation seems empty.