I have despised grades as long as I can remember. Sure, it always felt great to get an “A”, and it always felt horrible to receive any grade less than the average “C.” I honestly just accepted the system, and I never spent any time thinking about it until I began working in public education. Grades are an easy way to label students, and they can have a less than desirable effect on the learning process and our mindsets.
I recently started reading Hacking Assessment: 10 Ways to Go Gradeless, by Starr Sackstein, and I was immediately hooked. Starr takes a practical approach to addressing our biggest challenges with assessment and provides creative ways to shift immediately to a focus on learning rather than grades. I highly recommend this book because it will surely have you thinking about the age-old institution of grading. The book covers 10 “hacks”, and for the next ten days, I am going to blog and keep a slow chat going on Twitter to focus on one hack per day. Please join me by using the following hashtag: #HackingAssessment.
The first hack in this book states that we must first address our mindset about grades above all else, and throw out grades. After all, do grades articulate what a student can do with what they know, or do they just say that a student did their homework well? I don’t see much value in grades, especially “final grades.” If we are to promote a growth mindset for the students we serve, giving a student a grade and saying “that’s it, here’s your final grade,” seems to be the opposite of a growth mindset.
We have to begin this work by thinking critically about grades, what they represent, and what else we can do that keeps students focused on learning instead of labels that sometimes communicate they aren’t good enough. We must begin this work by simply talking with our peers, our students, our parents, administrators and other stakeholders, to begin building a new vision for assessment of learning.
Join in on the conversation on Twitter over the next ten days to discuss assessment and grading. #HackingAssessment