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Meghan Cureton

The Case Against Grades (##) - Alfie Kohn - 2 views

  • Collecting information doesn’t require tests, and sharing that information doesn’t require grades.  In fact, students would be a lot better off without either of these relics from a less enlightened age.
  • As I’ve reported elsewhere (Kohn, 1999a, 1999b, 1999c), when students from elementary school to college who are led to focus on grades are compared with those who aren’t, the results support three robust conclusions:
  • Grades tend to diminish students’ interest in whatever they’re learning.
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  • Grades create a preference for the easiest possible task.
  • Grades tend to reduce the quality of students’ thinking. 
  • For example, a grade-oriented environment is associated with increased levels of cheating (Anderman and Murdock, 2007), grades (whether or not accompanied by comments) promote a fear of failure even in high-achieving students (Pulfrey et al., 2011), and the elimination of grades (in favor of a pass/fail system) produces substantial benefits with no apparent disadvantages in medical school (White and Fantone, 2010).
  • Extrinsic motivation, which includes a desire to get better grades, is not only different from, but often undermines, intrinsic motivation, a desire to learn for its own sake (Kohn 1999a). 
  • Achievement:  Two educational psychologists pointed out that “an overemphasis on assessment can actually undermine the pursuit of excellence” (Maehr and Midgley, 1996, p. 7). 
  • There is certainly value in assessing the quality of learning and teaching, but that doesn’t mean it’s always necessary, or even possible, to measure those things — that is, to turn them into numbers.  Indeed, “measurable outcomes may be the least significant results of learning” (McNeil, 1986, p. xviii)
  • Once we’re compelled to focus only on what can be reduced to numbers, such as how many grammatical errors are present in a composition or how many mathematical algorithms have been committed to memory, thinking has been severely compromised.  And that is exactly what happens when we try to fit learning into a four- or five- or (heaven help us) 100-point scale.
  • Portfolios, for example, can be constructive if they replace grades rather than being used to yield them.  They offer a way to thoughtfully gather a variety of meaningful examples of learning for the students to review.  But what’s the point, “if instruction is dominated by worksheets so that every portfolio looks the same”? (Neill et al. 1995, p. 4).
  • It’s not enough to replace letters or numbers with labels (“exceeds expectations,” “meets expectations,” and so on).  If you’re sorting students into four or five piles, you’re still grading them.  Rubrics typically include numbers as well as labels, which is only one of several reasons they merit our skepticism (Wilson, 2006; Kohn, 2006).
  • It’s not enough to disseminate grades more efficiently — for example, by posting them on-line.  There is a growing technology, as the late Gerald Bracey once remarked, “that permits us to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn’t be doing at all” (quoted in Mathews, 2006).  In fact, posting grades on-line is a significant step backward because it enhances the salience of those grades and therefore their destructive effects on learning.
  • It’s not enough to add narrative reports.  “When comments and grades coexist, the comments are written to justify the grade” (Wilson, 2009, p. 60).  Teachers report that students, for their part, often just turn to the grade and ignore the comment, but “when there’s only a comment, they read it,”
  • It’s not enough to use “standards-based” grading.
  • Sometimes it’s only after grading has ended that we realize just how harmful it’s been.
  • To address one common fear, the graduates of grade-free high schools are indeed accepted by selective private colleges and large public universities — on the basis of narrative reports and detailed descriptions of the curriculum (as well as recommendations, essays, and interviews), which collectively offer a fuller picture of the applicant than does a grade-point average.  Moreover, these schools point out that their students are often more motivated and proficient learners, thus better prepared for college, than their counterparts at traditional schools who have been preoccupied with grades.

  • Even when administrators aren’t ready to abandon traditional report cards, individual teachers can help to rescue learning in their own classrooms with a two-pronged strategy to “neuter grades,” as one teacher described it.  First, they can stop putting letter or number grades on individual assignments and instead offer only qualitative feedback.
  • Second, although teachers may be required to submit a final grade, there’s no requirement for them to decide unilaterally what that grade will be.  Thus, students can be invited to participate in that process either as a negotiation (such that the teacher has the final say) or by simply permitting students to grade themselves.
  • Without grades, “I think my relationships with students are better,” Drier says.  “Their writing improves more quickly and the things they learn stay with them longer.
  • Drier’s final grades are based on students’ written self-assessments, which, in turn, are based on their review of items in their portfolios. 
  • A key element of authentic assessment for these and other teachers is the opportunity for students to help design the assessment and reflect on its purposes — individually and as a class. 
  • Grades don’t prepare children for the “real world” — unless one has in mind a world where interest in learning and quality of thinking are unimportant.  Nor are grades a necessary part of schooling, any more than paddling or taking extended dictation could be described that way.  Still, it takes courage to do right by kids in an era when the quantitative matters more than the qualitative, when meeting (someone else’s) standards counts for more than exploring ideas, and when anything “rigorous” is automatically assumed to be valuable.  We have to be willing to challenge the conventional wisdom, which in this case means asking not how to improve grades but how to jettison them once and for all.
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    HT @tedwards
Bo Adams

The Myth Of The Innovation Lab - 0 views

  • "innovation theater."
  • happens when teams in innovation labs use lean startup tools without really understanding how they work. They take the canvases, sticky notes, whiteboards and bean bags, and they start thinking that they are all set for doing innovation. The teams then focus their attention on making cool products, without thinking about the business models that underlie those products.
  • problem of success
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  • causes the most frustration among people who work inside innovation labs. These are hard working diligent people who understand how to apply lean startup methods and tools the right way. They often succeed in creating great products with good business models. However, when they are ready to take these products to scale they face resistance from their parent company.
  • The lesson learned is to not let the creation of an innovation lab lull you to sleep. You are not in a safe space. The parent company does not love you as much as you think it does. There is still a lot of work to do to get buy-in and support from leaders and key stakeholders.
  • idea that the leaders who funded the lab understand its purpose and support innovation
  • opening of the innovation lab itself often represents innovation theater - played out at the leadership level within the company
  • first symptom of this is the lack of a clear innovation strategy
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    HT TJ Edwards
Meghan Cureton

3 Ways to Unlock the Wisdom of Colleagues | Edutopia - 0 views

  • when teachers have regular, structured opportunities to learn together, good ideas are more likely to travel from one classroom to the next.
  • Collaboration takes time and planning. If classroom observation becomes part of a school’s strategy, administrators have to make time during the regular school day for shared professional learning among the staff. School leaders should also have to have clear objectives for the program of observation, and protocols to keep discussion on track and to ensure that the time isn’t wasted.
  • A spirit of continuous learning permeates the school, which encourages all teachers
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  • “Sometimes the best things going on are happening in your own building, and you might miss them because you’re doing your own thing,”
  • teachers meet regularly outside of class time to examine their students’ coursework as a team.
  • “The reason we look at student work is to help teachers become better teachers,”
  • “are better able to guide and facilitate a deeper level of student learning.”

  • community of learners who use planned, peer-to-peer feedback to help raise student outcomes throughout the school.
  • Each three-hour teacher lab focuses on a specific instructional topic that teachers choose to explore together, such as student engagement strategies.
  • To encourage more teacher collaboration in your school, you’ll want to consider:

    • Time: Where will you find time within the regular school day for teachers to step outside their own classrooms and learn together?
    • Structure: How might a protocol or specific observation prompt help to focus the learning experience? Who will play a lead role in facilitating the teacher experience and encouraging reflection? How will you capture takeaways? The National School Reform Faculty publishes a number of protocols for professional learning, such as this one for looking at student work.
    • Follow-up: How are teachers applying what they learn together? How do students benefit as a result of teacher collaboration?
Meghan Cureton

Grades Suffer When Class Time Doesn't Match Students' Biological Clocks - Inside School... - 1 views

  • "An important piece of the story is that it's not just about making the life of a teenager easier by saying maybe we can make classes later," said Benjamin Smarr, a postdoctoral psychologist at the University of California at Berkeley who studies circadian rhythm disruptions and learning.
  • As it turned out, taking a class schedule mismatched to your biological clock took a toll on students' grades, as the chart below shows. 
  • Early-rising "larks" had a grade advantage in morning classes, they found. Night owls performed better in afternoon and early evening classes, but the researchers also found these students tended to struggle more than those with earlier circadian rhythms in general. The researchers believe this was because their schedules were the farthest off "normal" class schedules, and the actual class times often varied significantly from day to day, making it difficult for these students to develop any consistency.
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  • Most high schools don't really have the option to make multiple sessions of the same class at different times, but Smarr said for those who use software that can track the timing of students' activity, it may be worth getting a sense of when different groups of students are likely to be most alert when scheduling core classes. Other forms of technology may also help, he said, allowing students to access classes or rewatch lectures at different times of the day.
Bo Adams

Better Brainstorming - 0 views

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    HT Nicole Martin
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