I recently read an insightful post by high school instructional coach, Kristy Louden. In the post, Louden shared her methodology towards developing a stronger culture of learner appreciation for teacher feedback. She argued that in order for students to truly benefit from teacher feedback on assignments and projects, and thereby deepen their learning, a culture of feedback first and grades second must become the normative practice in schools.
Learning is a process. A process that involves effective opportunity for reflection on one’s learning. Offering a learner only a grade for their work is no longer deemed acceptable or even adequate by many pedagogical assessment standards. And, giving a student a grade along with feedback is not much of an improvement if the feedback does not carry greater weight and value for the learner. A student simply focuses in on the grade often ignoring the deep and insightful feedback associated. It is a wasted opportunity for growth. For true learning. Deep learning.
As a teacher and parent, I have often struggled with my wish that we have for all of our learners. How do we get students to actually read, reflect, and effectively use the teacher feedback that they receive?
Both my current and future teaching environments do not offer grades for their students (NOTE: Other than the government mandated letter grade that remains in the student information system and never sees the light of day unless requested by a parent) as a core value of their assessment belief system. Can teachers in these schools give tests? Yep. Can they use letter grades? Indeed. How about a percentage? Yep. And many do.
Can teachers use a single letter or number on a formal report that indicates learning? Not in these schools. And I’m proud of this fact. I’m proud of the high value that our school district, for the most part, places on grade-free reporting and recognition of grades as only one method of summative assessment.
Many secondary and post-secondary institutions in British Columbia have moved long past the ‘grade’ as the sole determining factor of success in our modern education system. I’m proud of this, too.