1. This is a discussion that needs to take place far more often than it does. We especially need our educational leaders to not only be tolerant of but also encourage.

    Thanks for this George


    • georgecouros

      This is something that is so important in our division and has been discussed openly. We always need to have the conversation, not just assume that what we used to do, works. Thanks for your comment Joe 🙂

  2. Hi George,
    One member of my MEd cohort is head of the PE department at a high school and his Masters work is focused on assessment in PE. His entire PE department does not assign any marks except, as required, at the end of the course. He has developed an interview process which he uses with students instead. He's worked hard to communicate his philosophy and the change to parents and all feedback has been positive so far. The students, in particular, absolutely love the change! He was not satisfied that letter grades would help his students be healthy and fit for life and chose a more meaningful, though also perhaps more controversial and more difficult, way to have assessment empower learning.

  3. An excellent post George. It is a practice that will be very difficult to change when students are moving into areas that are heavily dependent on grades. It is a mind-set that needs to be changed at the end product and with the perception that parents have in relation to grades. It is hard to change it from the 'bottom' when others continue to think that my role is to prepare students for high school – my role is to prepare students to continually learn throughout their life..

  4. A very timely post George. I know Remi Collins in our District has been blogging about grades, mainly from an elementary perspective but he caught the attention of our Ass't sup responsible for curriculum and assessment and the conversation has begun… It is interesting how much we (parents, schools, higher ed) emphasis and importance we put on a letter grade. It isn't even comparible teacher to teacher, school to school… so it doesn't really have authentic standard meaning but we treat it like it does. Odd hey. Perhaps we can shift to a more mastery model of assessment where growth, not some end point is the goal. Each student should be measured on how they move from here to there. Mastery is maybe defined as some state of expertise but not something that limits or is the end leaving room for continuous learning and growth. I'm sure there'd be a way to develop a "map" of sorts from a growth model to a snapshot / sorting model if that is what higher ed continues to rely on. Someone should figure that out…

  5. Molly Smith

    The conversation is important. In fact, assessment of students needs to be a conversation. Grades are part of our system, and even if they are not ideal, they do allow students to know where they stand. I think there are ways to use them to motivate kids to try harder. I like the idea of the "NY" grade which indicates the student is not there yet, but implies that he or she can get there. I also like allowing students to revise and refine their work, even if they receive an A initially. By varying the ways the we assess learning, we can keep students challenged appropriately. Encouraging students to take on increasingly difficult tasks means that as teachers we need to be willing to revise and refine our work. I like to think that we are collaborating with students in some way. I also think that by developing standards for mastery in our classes and then measuring students against those, we can have meaningful conversations but then still translate those measures into letter grades for the transcript.

  6. "Grades a part of our system, and even if they are not ideal, they do allow students to know where they stand."

    I agree that grades do in fact tell students where they stand… in relation to their peers.

    If we are more interested in students focusing on their relative performance in comparison to others then I can think of no better way of insuring this than grading; However, if we want students to focus more on the learning and encourage them to see their colleagues as collaborators rather than obstacles to their own success, then we have to do everything in our power to abolish grading.

  7. Jodene Dunleavy

    George, thank you for this posting. I happened to read it just at the time we were looking at the most recent data from our initiative What did you do in school today? http://www.cea-ace.ca/wdydist. The data is suggesting that higher class marks are not strongly correlated with teaching or learning; rather, a student’s course grade is still more a measure of “good behaviour” (e.g., getting to class on time and handing in homework and other assignments) as well as resources students have at home to support those behaviours. As students’ level interest and motivation to do well in class go up, their grades actually go down! All this initially indicates that if we want to accurately measure the level of students’ understanding and the depth of their learning, we need to adjust our grading practices so they go beyond rewarding behaviours rather than learning. We continue to work with this data and we will be sharing a full report June, which I’ll be sure to share over Twitter and on our website (http://www.cea-ace.ca)

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