Going Gradeless

I’ve written and presented on assessment many times in the past 2 decades. The trend in education is clear: Most people, if not all, believe grades are a poor representation of learning and yet many can’t figure out how to either de-emphasize or get rid of them entirely. My current grading gig is with Wilkes University. I play the game but I’m clear with my students from the onset I don’t value them at all. To that end, I’ve shifted to full-on self-assessment. Unless someone is completely delusional, whatever grade they justify, they get. I’m not interested in quibbling over a few points here. As graduate students, I’ve yet to find any that are delusional. To that end, my course and I believe any teaching comes down to 3 questions:

What do I know now I didn’t know before?

What can I do now I couldn’t do before?

Why does it matter?

That’s it. For the most part, grades have not been an issue … Read the rest

Sometimes I’m not Very Bright

Depending on who you ask “Sometimes” is a very loaded word.

As someone who has been pretty vocal about the limitations of Twitter, I should know better.

I’ve railed against the use of pithy tweets and so only moments after I send this baby out did I realize that:

  1. I was guilty of breaking my own rule.
  2. I had started a small fire storm.

Immediately the retweets and likes started flooding in. I hopped on a plane and landed to see the error of my ways. This tweet, in particular, reminded me of what I had done.

They’re right. It was a rather insulting tone and that was the moment of regret. I wanted to start a conversation but the awkward tone, lack of nuance, and labelling teachers  with such a volatile topic polarized the tweet rather … Read the rest

Stop Worry About the Achievement Gap

“Closing the Achievement Gap” is a term and movement that has been around for a while. Born out of good intentions, it’s essentially a recognition that we need to attend to students with lower grades. Fair enough. And yet I see this obsession flawed in a few ways and it once again is more about adults and accountability than caring for children.

The essence of the problem stems from the inherent flaws of our education system. We tend to focus mostly on students’ weaknesses and spend an exorbitant amount of time and money in attempting to remedy this.

When a student says, “school sucks” it might be for a number of factors but my intuition is that for the majority of them it’s because they spend time working on things they hate and an inverse proportion on things they enjoy.

Scott McLeod and I just release our new book on Different Schools for a Different World. Scott shares a graph from Gallup that offers some insight.

While all three of these results are troubling, it’s’ the last, the one in red that addresses the problem. How can we live with the idea that only 20% of students feel they … Read the rest

Three Questions

I say a lot of things on Twitter. Most tweets get very little attention and rightly so. Occasionally I manage a lucid thought that seems to resonate more than I anticipated. Sunday I tweeted:

So I thought I’d provide a bit more context to explain this idea.

My journey into assessment and changing the narrative has been going on for over a decade. Specifically dealing with the question, “Who owns the assessment?” It shouldn’t be about what satisfies me but what aids the learner in getting the most from the experience.

For the most part, we’ve over complicated assessment. Our data-obsessed world and education system continues to look for silver bullets, accountability, and/or justification of our practices. More tools mean more ways to try and measure learning. My mantra remains:

You might not be able to measure learning, but you can document it. 

So assessment and evaluation remain elements of my teaching that I’m always tweaking and ultimately empowering the learners as much as possible. It’s why they … Read the rest

Being Self-Aware

This post was last updated on March 30th, 2016 at 09:24 am

I’ve had a few conversations lately with family, friends and colleagues about self-awareness. I find it fascinating as a personal introspective but wondering if it can be and should be explicitly taught. For the most part, I consider myself pretty self-aware. I suppose most people would say the same. We like to think we’re honest with ourselves about our strengths and weaknesses and foibles and annoyances. It usually takes more than simply being reflective to address this. It requires the eyes of others to at times let you know when you’ve missed the mark or even when you’ve done well but weren’t even aware of the impact. On more than one occasion, I’ve come to terms with my own lack of self-awareness.

Exhibit 1:

I’m one of the worst complimenters on the planet. This is now a running joke among the folks I work with at Discovery Education. I have a bad habit of using “actually” or some other odd qualifier when I give people a compliment. “Actually, that’s not a bad shot” (ask Steve Dembo for the full story) I certainly wasn’t aware I was doing this … Read the rest