So, I have long been frustrated by the assessment practices in my classroom (read: all over the world). If I had my way, I’d eliminate grades all together in every level of education. True, I didn’t always feel this way. But as I have progressed in my understanding as an educator, I have slowly come to see that the grades, the numbers, the labels have a drastic impact on the learning of my students, and not a good one. I teach Grade 8 and love it. I love everything about Intermediate students — from their emerging personalities and sense of humour, to their day to day changing emotions. No two days are ever the same in this profession.
For the past few years, I have half-heartedly tried to be a ‘grades-free’ classroom. This mostly consisted of me recording marks in my mark book, and only giving feedback on work that I handed back to students. This was a baby step, and now, I’m ready to take more of a plunge into being truly grades free. However, at the end of the day, I do have to put marks on report cards, and so, guided by the ideas that I have embraced from Pernille Ripp’s Passionate Learners (follow her at @pernilleripp), I am going to try something brave. I am going to ask my students to be equally, if not more, accountable for determining their assessments in my classes. Students will, ultimately, be responsible for choosing the grade that goes on their report card. Now, this sounds absolutely ridiculous, even to me. How on earth can they do that? How does that prepare them for high school? For real life? But, let’s face it, students do actually determine their own grades already by their attitudes, their efforts, the learning they demonstrate each day, and their conversations. However, usually I’m the person that is responsible for putting the number on the learning, not them. This year, I’m turning the system on it’s head.
This will require work. This will require learning and conversations, and debating and discussion and working collaboratively with my students to help them make effective decisions about showing and sharing their mastery of their learning. It will require open communication with parents and administration. But I believe that it will be worth it. Think of the learning that will happen!
What I’m struggling with right now is how to organize and document this assessment. Obviously, I can’t just use a spreadsheet or grid to just record marks. I need documentation. So, I’m working on a way to record this information. Every students’ mastery will look different and may come at a different time. This will require flexibility and creativity. I welcome any and all ideas, comments and thoughts on this.