Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Why I forget to use grades...

Clay Burrell provides a background of how our current method of grading came to be. It can be found here in his post.

The summary of the effects of the change from a socratic method to industrial type grading:
  • Grades did not make students smarter. In fact, they had the opposite effect: they made it harder for those children to succeed whose style of learning didn’t match the didactic, auditory form of lecture-teaching Farish used.
  • Grades didn’t give students deeper insights into their topics of study. Instead, grades forced children to memorize by rote only those details necessary to pass the tests, without regard to true comprehension of the subject matter.
  • Grades didn’t encourage critical thinking or insight skills, didn’t promote questioning minds. Such behaviors are useless in the graded classroom, and within a few generations were considered so irrelevant that today they’re no longer listed among the goals of public education.
  • Grades didn’t stimulate the students, or share with them a contagious love for the subject being studied. The opposite happened, in fact, as the normative effect of grades acted as a muffling blanket to any eruptions of enthusiasm, any attempts to dig deeper into a topic, any discursions into larger significance or practical application of content.
I can't change the fact that I must provide grades or that sometimes I have close to 30 students in my class, but I can change what I choose to emphasize for grades. I can choose the activities that ask them to think, apply, reflect... There would be long periods of time where we did not have a grade recorded and that would make parents and students nervous.

Students worked hard in my class and it was quite an adjustment last year especially for students who are used to memorizing and spitting out information (and do it quite well...).

This summer I am putting much thought into goals and design. How can you be sure that content is covered (sorry, still need to think about that) and yet really be sure you are not just looking at the surface?

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