What NOT to say about grades …


This week there has been an active discussion on Twitter around the hashtag #TTOG, founded by Mark Barnes and an acronym for Teachers Throwing Out Grades. This discussion, coupled with the recent posts by my division head, Mike Crowley, has led me to ruminate on my own processes with regards assessment, and in the name of keeping it simple, I’m going to focus on the most obvious place in which my ideas manifest, and that is the classroom.

The language we use in the classroom is fundamental in establishing the type of learning environment that we believe in. In particular, the way we talk about grades sends a very clear message to students and parents about what our priorities are. There are many factors that we do not necessarily have control over in the work that we do, but within the walls of our rooms we have the freedom (I hope) to say what we feel is right. When the “outside” does not work the way we want it to, we can only start with the “inside” and work our way out. In changing the way we talk about grades, we slowly change the way our students (and their parents) see assessment and the learning process. To make this tangible, here are examples of sentences you will NOT hear me say:

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Sharing confusion (and every now and then some clarity)

For the last few weeks, I removed any trace of this blog from my online profiles and even changed the settings to Private (a blog for me – just me – the glee). I did this because I felt that my lack of regular posts reflected poorly on my professionalism and level of engagement. Today I took the bold step of putting my blog address back into my Twitter profile, and after having done some grading, I feel like writing a post, which is a great feeling.

I have always said that I must know why I am doing something, and I must feel motivated to make the time to do it. This blog has been an on/off love affair, and I still don’t feel like it is the space I have wanted it to be. But I also am slowly accepting that perhaps I have been putting too much emphasis on what others will know, learn and understand about me by reading what I write. This blog must be for me, first and foremost. It is a strange thing to grasp, the idea that writing in public is actually a private process. I do feel, however, that I want to say something, and that I will burst if I don’t start expressing myself. The act of writing ideas down is a pressure valve, and I think for me a process in which I can attempt to clarify what I feel about what I read and experience on a daily basis. It has taken some time (I started this blog in September 2014), but I think that I have finally realised what this is for. I have, possibly subconsciously, been feeling that I should be writing and sharing my astute answers to the issues in education. It is time for me to share my confusion and maybe, every now and then, my clarity.

I am still not happy with the way the blog looks, the title etc etc, but I can’t keep finding reasons why I should not be writing. I started the process based on a belief that this could be valuable. What I have been muddling my way towards is – what does valuable mean for me?

Thank you to Scott McLeod via Mike Crowley for the challenge to contribute to the #makeschooldifferent stream of thoughts. The spark of interest the post received has made me look at my blog again, and paradoxically the attention has made me realise that I shouldn’t worry about the attention; if I write down what I think and engage with others about issues that affect education, then I am growing and learning, and that is all that is important.

We have to stop pretending …

In response to Mike Crowley’s challenge (a response to Scott McLeod’s challenge) :

When it comes to education we have to stop pretending (assuming) that:

  • Students learn best in groups of people their own age
  • The subject labels and divisions we use are effective and, on top of that, they’ve always been there and it is too much work to change them
  • Students need teacher constructed activities all day long to learn
  • It is acceptable that students are evaluated in school in ways that are completely different to how they are evaluated in the workplace
  • It is acceptable for school to stay the way it is, because school and the real world have always been different, right?

I challenge Gordon Eldrige, Ben Doxtdator, Mark Compton-James, David Didau, and Starr Sackstein to add their ideas to the mix.