I made an off the cuff comment to a parent during a meeting in term one that I could probably write end of year reports at that moment and be 90% correct in the grades that students achieved. This comment has been sitting with me ever since. The student we were discussing is a hard working, patient, friendly, empathetic and all round genuine kid who happens to “struggle” in certain learning areas. We discussed that the grade achieved was largely irrelevant, that the effort, engagement and improvement would be the focus for this year.
But this got me thinking, why am I spending so much time marking and collecting data (and I have heaps!) when I could be focusing on providing feedback for learning and giving students the opportunity to integrate their strengths and interests into our learning? So was born the idea for the City of Glacier Park.
Shouldn’t I provide an opportunity for every student to access the curriculum and have a chance to be successful? So I have made a significant move away from summative assessment and grading so much work towards providing feedback in many different forms and ongoing formative assessment so students can check in with how they are going and what they are learning.
In the past, I have used hard deadlines to get work in on time. The consequence for failing to finish work on time has come in the shape of a grade (usually a partial or minimal). We are currently trialling soft deadlines to give the students a target end date, but the only real deadline is the end of the term.
Now the consequence for not finishing work, is finishing the work.
I recently found a community of educators called “Teacher Going Gradeless”. This doesn’t actually mean that teachers aren’t grading work at all, many are focused on providing meaningful feedback to students and utilising other forms of grading via self and peer assessment. Most of the conversations are based on student growth and learning, not grades, and based on research and results.
We are playing around with many different learning techniques and assessment strategies during our term long project and while it has been slow going so far, I’m certain that by the end of the term we will have made significant improvements in the way that we learn.
Now my big questions have turned to whether I am setting students up for failure later if I find ways for them to be successful now? Is a significant increase in formative assessment really a fair measure of understanding if students fail to ‘remember’ it during summative assessment?
These are questions for another day.