My love for grades began when I was in Grade 1, and I received my first spelling test. I was given a number (or grade) that showed me how many words I got right, and which words I needed to improve on. And I was motivated to improve. From that point on, with every worksheet and test I received, I loved coming home and showing my parents the marks I received on the work I put so much effort into producing. I learned work ethic, and discipline. I learned about many subject areas, like the time periods and cultures that I wrote tests on. I memorized information, and I was always very excited to see the grade that I had received for the work I put into learning. I loved learning. I still do. I love talking about the things that I learn. I love teaching other people what I have learned. I love being knowledgeable. I suppose this is why I want to be a teacher.
The point I am trying to make here is not to tell stories of my childhood, or to talk about the good grades I achieved. The goal is to talk about the school system I learned in. It was one that was grade-oriented. But the thing is, I thrived in that. I learned to love learning in that system. That is the school system that produced a young woman who is passionate about teaching.
The problem is that 21st Century learning is moving towards a system of making grades disappear. You may be thinking this isn’t a problem at all, because just like many professors I have had, you probably think that getting rid of grades will increase motivation of learning instead of motivation for the percentage on the top of the paper you submitted. The problem that I have is that I learned and thrived in the grading system. It was not until recently that I began to see getting rid of grades as something that could be beneficial. I realized in my education to become a teacher that I need to teach to individual students. I said earlier in this blog post that that is my passion. One other very important thing that I have learned in my education is that every student is not like me. So just because I thrived in this education system, grades and all, doesn’t mean that all of my students, or even most of them would thrive in this.
Therefore, I will step aside, and face my fears of getting rid of grades. It is good practice in this Education class where I am told we will not be graded. This is the first time I will not be graded in school. It is a scary thought to suddenly change the way I have been doing things for 17 years. However, for the good of my students, and for the sake of the benefits of 21st Century learning (i.e. motivation for learning), I will give it a try.
I saw this video about motivation for students in relation to getting rid of grading. It gave me food for thought and helped me to see that motivation to learn is powerful, and motivation for grading can get in the way of that. So I thought I would include it in this post. Enjoy!
My question still remains, HOW do we allow students to be motivated by learning, and not by grades. It is still important to keep track in some way that students are learning what is expected of them in the curriculum, and that they are prepared to approach the topics and ideas they will learn in years to come. I decided to search on Aviva’s blog about the idea of not grading. She has given me insight on 21st Century topics in the past, and I thought I would see if she has written about grading at all. The link below is what I found from her. She has discussed some very practical ways to still grade students, but to do this in an entirely self-directed way, that allows for inquiry, but still ensures students follow the curriculum. It allows each student to learn what they are interested in, in their own way, while meeting the criteria for their grade.
See this link for her blog post…it’s a great read!
So now is the task of applying this to my own classroom, even though I have not seen it in action before, and even though I have always seen curriculum as very rigid, and not allowing for much differentiation for students in terms of WHAT they learn. I noticed in the curriculum, as I was doing my Vertical Scans, that many expectations actually leave room for inquiry. For example, in Social Studies, the grade two expectation B2.1 is as follows “formulate questions to guide investigations into some of the short- and/or long-term effects on the environment of different types of land and/or resource use in two or more municipal regions of Ontario”. This is very open-ended! I could allow for inquiry by letting students choose which effects, resources, and municipalities they are interested in, and allowing them to find out this information in their own way (with support and help of course). I can give them feedback as they go along, and all the while they will fulfill this expectation, making their own questions, and performing their own investigations. They will still fulfill this expectation, and I can grade them, but as Aviva said, this does not have to be completed through a test or final project, but rather I can ensure they are learning through the PROCESS of investigation. This takes away the pressure and rigidity of a “marked test” or “graded assignment” and allows freedom to be motivated by interest.
I have been given a lot of food for thought, even while writing this blog. It scares me to change my teaching methods to become different than the way that I was taught. However, if I am going to say that my passion is to teach to individual students, then I need to teach them in the way that motivates and works for them, and not just in the way that motivates me to learn. I am sure that through this teaching method, I will learn a lot from my students’ investigations and I am excited to see how inquiry and motivation to learn plays out in my classroom!