Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Emphasize What Was Learned

I have written repeatedly about how much I dislike grades, especially as so-called objective measures of achievement and learning. Beside the possible emotional effects of grading students in competition with one another, it also has a way of degrading actual student learning. If students get a "C" or "D" they automatically devalue and forget all the actual learning they did just because a subjective teacher measured him as sub par against his/her peers. Thus for most, report card day usually ends up being a dreaded experience. Why is that the case?

Regardless of whether a student possess a savant-like or  average IQ, genuine learning usually has taken place. Shouldn't report card day be a celebration of this learning rather than the crushing evaluation that it has become? I hate to see the anxiety and worry on students' faces as those things are being handed out. Instead of building children up, they usually just knock them down. Based on this, I really tried to change this in small ways this year.

On report card day, I showed a fairly long slide show outlining the things we LEARNED during that marking period. The kids went nuts and were in eager anticipation for each slide to be revealed. Most slides were accompanied by a "Ohh ya", "That was hard",  "That was easy",  or simple giggles. It was a total shift from anxiety to genuine accomplishment and celebration. I certainly recommend trying something like this at the end of each grading or marking period. It builds self-esteem and reflection. It reinforces learning rather than empty grading. Unfortunately, most of my slides just had text on them because it was something I thought of the last minute. Next year, I am eager to keep a file with pictures and movie clips and turn this into something bigger. Perhaps a movie or something of that sort. All I know is that showing learning is a whole lot more worthwhile than giving random letters to symbolize learning.

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