Here, my purpose is to show how I replaced summative assessment, things like rubrics, grades, averages, decimal points and judgements.
My discontent with grades runs long and deep, but I became fully conscious of my disgust for them when I read Alfie Kohn's article The Costs of Overemphasizing Achievement. I then developed an idea of how to not only abolish grades but how to replace them with formative feedback when I read Kohn's book The Schools Our Children Deserve. It was here that I first read about something Kohn has come to call Bruner's Law:
So I set out to develop a replacement for grading.
Children should experience their successes and failures not as reward and punishment but as information.
I used www.prezi.com to explain the three categories I use to provide feedback for students.
I use these three categories for not only my written feedback, but also my two-way conversations. I guide the way I speak to my students by providing what I see, suggestions and questions. Remember though, that my ultimate goal is still to provide information for children to improve while avoiding rewards and punishments that reflect a behaviourists approach. (For more on how the great coach John Wooden also followed this approach, read my blog post Information vs Reward and Punishment.)
But remember, even the best forms of assessment can be over done. I remember when I first started using this kind of assessment and how I started to use the formal written version far too often. Any kind of reflection, no matter how valuable, should only be done sparingly. It makes sense to only stop and reflect occasionally - while the rest of the time we should just be doing whatever it is we are learning.
You have to understand that to replace grades means that we have to abolish them and replace them with something entirely different - and that means we need to stop mistaking measuring students with helping them improve.
It is important to point out that I am still required to put a grade on my students report card. The School Act in Alberta demands it. And so I oblige. But no where does it say that I have to have a collection of grades that I average in order to come up with a final grade. In fact, my school district's policy for reporting pupil progress writes:
Information relating to student progress must be substantiated by a carefully kept set of records, as well as samples of student work.You'll notice that no where does it say that we must reduce learning to a number or letter in order to come up with a number or letter. I challenge you to look at your district's reporting policy to find out exactly what it says the teacher must do when reporting pupil progress.
We can't measure our way to learning. If we really want to 'close the achievement gap' while we 'leave no child left behind' as we strive for 'life-long learning', then we have to stop judging, ranking, sorting and measuring - and we have to start listening, learning, teaching, guiding and observing.
In otherwords, we have to stop confusing doing things to children with working with children.
For more on abolishing grading, check out this page.