War on grades begins and readers are curious

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My New Year’s resolution, launching a war on traditional grades in all schools, is sparking plenty of attention here at Brilliant or Insane and on social media. Good questions are cropping up — encouraging me to believe that this resolution is gaining traction, rather than ridicule.

A 75/100 55%

I’m running into people like Anneke Radin-Snaith here, at workshops and on numerous social networks; most are inspired and asking questions like Anneke, who posted the ones below here:

First of all, I love the idea of feedback instead of grades and have slowly been moving in that direction for a while now. Reading your piece brought up a few questions for me. What age do you work with and do you see this method as applicable across the board? How much time does this take? Do you use this method with every assignment, or only some? When you involve students in grading themselves (for report cards) do use some type of process whereby they look back at their work/progress?

Let me fire the first salvo at grades by addressing these issues in order.

  • Narrative feedback, using the SE2R system, is effective in any grade or subject. Meaningful two-way feedback creates a conversation about learning, which should start at a young age and continue throughout adulthood.
  • The SE2R system is time-consuming. When learning is done right, though, teachers should spend most of their time providing feedback, using a variety of tools. Remember, all feedback does not have to be written. Much of it can be part of verbal conversations.
  • Narrative feedback should be the evaluation system used for all activities, projects or assessments. It frames learning far more effectively than numbers and letters ever can.
  • For report cards, the student must be involved in deciding the final grade. At the end of a marking period, I sit down with every student and reflect on all activities, projects and feedback. Then, I ask a simple question: “What grade should you receive?” Students are our most important stakeholders. Leaving them out of any final report card grade is poor practice and a true injustice.
It is this kind of dialogue that will help us win the war on traditional grades. Please keep the questions and comments coming.

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Mark Barnes is the author of many education books, including Bestseller Hacking Education, part of his Hack Learning Series, books that solve big problems with simple ideas. Barnes presents internationally on assessment, connected education, and student-centered learning. Join more than 100,000 interested educators who follow @markbarnes19 on Twitter.
  1. Anneke Radin-Snaith
    • Mark Barnes

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