Learning, Innovation & Tech

Bombs & Breakthroughs

The Day I Abolished Grading

CJ Westerberg, August 7, 2012 8:52 AM

explosion.jpg

Ed. Note: Back by popular demand. A classic gem. Thanks for retweets from below and most of all for @joebower  . . .  C.J. Westerberg
 
@Pam_thompson, @futuristex2014, @chrisjcotter, @ajspinali104, @dara_watkins, @BethBerBeaulieu, @barnett7science, @drowe522, @sschat7, @gracetherriault, @Rogers_Suzanne, @sophfenton, @NixStyx                    

The Day I Abolished Grading


"You mean we did this all for nothing!?!?"

by Joe Bower

I can remember the day I decided to abolish grading. It was November 2006. The night before I had read Alfie Kohn's article The Costs of Overemphasizing Achievement and it had been the pedagogical pill I had been looking to cure my ailments for grading.

I showed up the next day to teach my grade 8 students with something in mind. That year I taught two classes of about 30 students each language arts and science. I had been integrating the classes a little, and so they had days before handed in an essay on the particle model of matter days before. As far as they knew, I should have been grading their papers, but I was about to blow their minds.

At the time, I was ready to be a statistic that reinforced the fact that at least half of all teachers quit inside their first 5 years on the job. After about a 6-8 month period of severe disenfranchisement from the teaching profession,
I had finally found a breath of fresh air.

I walked into class and announced to my students that I had decided not to grade their essays. I was beaming with excitement.

They were not.

Suddenly, the air beneath my wings had disappeared. My excitement was lost on them... I was disheartened.

But what happened next both appalled and enlightened me. I stood there at the front of the class and heard what sounded like all 30 of them yell in unison:

You mean we did this all for nothing!?!?

Initially I felt like I had been kicked in the groin with a golf shoe.

But then I felt like the Grinch... you know... when his heart grew three sizes that day!

Their disgust was all the proof I needed to tell me I was on to something. They had done all this because they expected a grade... and they figured
I had better keep my end of the bargain! They didn't care about the particle model of matter. They didn't give two hoots about their essays, sentence structure or paragraphing. There was no love for learning. It was a game that I was perpetuating - and I was done perpetuating it.

"There was no love for learning.
It was a game that I was perpetuating - and I was done perpetuating it. . ."

I remember laughing to myself thinking... holy shit! Is this all a facade? Why are we here? I had to slap myself before these existential questions went too far.

I spent the next few months sharing, explaining, detailing and showing my students how I came to all this. A few brainiacs didn't agree. Some thought
I was nuts. Most cared. All listened.

I took a risk that day. My course outline had suddenly become null and void. My students had become my formative assessment guinea pigs. So how did I survive? Well, at that time, I can't even tell you that I was all the well read on the subject of real learning, formative assessment or abolishing grading.
I was pretty inexperienced and more than a little indulgent.

I didn't survive because of me. I survived because people trusted me. My administration, students and their parents trusted me. I was afforded enough room to work that I could become the educator I kind of thought I might maybe someday become.

As an educator, it was the day I reinvented how I taught and my students learned.

It was good.


###

Previously posted The Daily Riff August 2010
Bower's background from his blog, for the love of learning:

"I am not the same teacher I used to be. When I started, I was very focused on power and control. I assigned loads of homework, dished out huge penalties for late assignments, assigned punishments for rule breaking behavior and averaged my marks to get a final grade. I did some of these things because I was trained to do so in university. However, most of these teaching strategies were being done mindlessly, and like a lot of teachers, I was simply teaching the way I was taught.

This kind of teaching made me miserable, and to be honest, some of my students weren't that happy either. In November 2004, I began my journey towards uprooting some of the most deeply rooted myths that continue to distract people from a love for learning."

 And from his bio:
"I am Joe Bower and I teach in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada. I wish to challenge 'traditional' schooling while exploring more progressive forms of education. I intend on using this blog to uproot some of the most deeply rooted myths that continue to distract people from a love for learning. And I am going to have fun doing it!"


Related The Daily Riff:

The Unintended Consequences of Grading Effort by Joe Bower

Being Pegged, Late Bloomers and Effort by C.J. Westerberg

How U.S. Education is Failing our Kids (by how teaching incremental effort brings incremental results)  featuring Eric Ries video

Editor's Note:  The logical next question is "How does one assess students if there are no grades?"  Joe Bower answers this question in a related post, "Grading Without Grading",
which explains how and why students should be involved with their own assessments. 


Enhanced by Zemanta
blog comments powered by Disqus
It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.
Leonardo da Vinci
Follow The Daily Riff on Follow TDR on Twitter

find us on facebook

bill-gates.FT.Financial-Times.jpg

Cool Smart Teen: Changing the conversation about building stuff

SMW, 11.04.2013

Not just building an app to play with . . . but a test for cancer

Read Post | Comments

Riffing good stories

Stanford.design-thinking. innovation.jpg

Video: What is the link between "design-thinking" and creativity?

SMW, 11.03.2013

Creative Confidence: Must-Watch Interview on Charlie Rose

Read Post | Comments
early education.preschool.jpg

How Much Do Early Years Lead to Student Success?

CJ Westerberg, 11.03.2013

"The idea being that wasn't necessarily to create little engineers everywhere, though that would be great for us. The idea was to take advantage of the natural learning process and curiosity that children have at that age . . ." Tamika Lang, Boeing

Read Post | Comments
weekend-reading.jpg

NEW: Weekend Reading

SMW, 11.03.2013

Looking for Intimacy in the Age of Facebook is a higher education course (yes, you heard right). Interestingly, social media may inhibit creativity and innovation

Read Post | Comments
CV.digital.jpg

The New Resume

SMW, 10.31.2013

A picture is worth a thousand words. A video game-like format is worth . . .

Read Post | Comments
red.blue.abstract.jpg

Noam Chomsky: The Purpose of Education

CJ Westerberg, 10.31.2013

"Education is really aimed at helping students get to the point where they can learn on their own. . . "

Read Post | Comments
twitter2BigBird.jpg

Noam Chomsky: In the news again, this time about Twitter and High Schoolers

SMW, 10.31.2013

Noam Chomsky, Professor Emeritus at MIT, "father of linguistics", political commentator.  From bio: "Besides his work in linguistics, Chomsky is internationally recognized as one of the most critically engaged public intellectuals alive today":               ...

Read Post | Comments
CIMG0353.jpg

Choke: Test-taking - - - a different way to look at test-prep?

CJ Westerberg, 10.28.2013

"Most students will not find a steady diet of test-prep drills and worksheets to be particularly meaningful, and accordingly, they will not put forth optimal learning effort."

Read Post | Comments
beehive.bee.jpg

Does your school have a beehive?

CJ Westerberg, 10.27.2013

"If we want children to be inventors, we have to give them opportunities to invent." - 5:00 mark, Mission Hill video

Read Post | Comments