Saturday, October 9, 2010

Grading Moratorium: Tracy Mercier

Tracy Mercier has joined the Grading Moratorium.Want to join? Here's how.

Tracy Mercier

I am an elementary teacher, currently teaching 3rd grade, but have also taught 4th & 5th.  My journey into abolishing grades began once I began abolishing homework.  I really questioned why I was assigning homework, what is was accomplishing, teaching the kids, & how much time I was spending assessing homework. My reflections led me to discover that homework was not making them intrinsically motivated, teaching me something new, reinforcing learning, etc.  What I began to see was 95% of kids extending their learning beyond the classroom, in some fashion, on a daily basis.  These realizations made me question grading.  

I wondered if grades, like homework, were making my students want to do quality work, pushing them to do more, telling them/me what they truly learned.  At first I began to use rubrics for everything (instead of occasionally).  I even created the rubrics with the children.  Yet, I became frustrated with those as well.  I noticed that they were no different than grades, & in some ways worse, because it provides children with the option of doing &/or learning very little.  Now, some may argue that it's the quality of the rubric, but I disagree.  They end up being used as a grade.  (How can they not?)  

So, this past year, I stopped grading.  I began to use solely feedback.  Specific feedback based upon concepts/content/skills I had taught them in mini - lessons & expectations I had taught/we had agreed upon as a class.  One thing I did demand, is that if they were going to state something, they needed to prove it/back it up.  

What were the results?  Mixed.  But...only because of what I did/didn't do.  This year I will continue to use feedback, establish routines & expectations that will help guide the children in how they behave as a learner.  I will also continue to make sure the children receive plenty of feedback from their peers.  While my feedback is valuable, I did notice that their peers was more important to them.  Even if it was just seeing how a classmate had done something, interpreted something it drove them to revise their work.  I still struggle with justifying that to a grade on the report card, but the more I'll do it, the easier it will be.

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