No Grades Day

Last year I set my senior PDHPE class a little task, then involved them reading up on the latest recovery strategies used by the top rugby league players. “Is it in the syllabus?” they asked. “No,” I replied, “This is brand new stuff.”

Out of 20 students, how many looked at the stimulus material provided on our schools intranet? (complete with a handy tool that tells me how many students have viewed said material)

Three. A 15% success rate!

When I asked why, the common reply was “We don’t need to know it for the HSC.”

To be honest this was a little experiment… although statistically not reliable given the small test group, it backed up what I expected to see.

Behavioural science tells us that when students see grades as the outcome of education, they actually lose the intrinsic love of learning they entered school with.

Daniel Pink’s talk in this post explores this concept in terms of monetary reward.

How many times has the first question a kids asked you after setting a task been “Are we being tested on this?” or “What’s this out of?”

If no marks are attached, what priority is it given?

How many schools say they want to create Lifelong learners, critical thinkers etc… and then subconsciously undermine their students’ intrinsic motivation to learn by continually attaching a grade to their learning?

I’ve heard of consultants who advise marking and grading S T U D Y N O T E S !

So my vision is to have a day where no grades are given. Anywhere. In Any School. WORLD-wide. But I will settle for some schools, heck even one’ll do!

Kids coming to school to learn for learnings sake. No fear of failure. No reinforcing the labels we have for our kids. Letting kids explore…

Never-mind teachers or parents, I reckon the kids would “flip out” because that’s how we’ve conditioned them…

So put the date in your diary: Friday 18th May – the day after NAPLAN – and no the irony is not lost on me…

One Comment on “No Grades Day

  1. Love the post, Dan…had similar experience with my Year 11’s SOR… did all sorts of creative classroom tasks with them, lots of investigation, questioning, independent work, bigger picture stuff. I loved it. End of Yr 11, did evaluation and overwhelmingly kids said ‘stop the fun stuff and just stick to syllabus.. we want to be spoonfed’. I couldn’t bring myself to do that and was temporarily disappointed… took me a while to work out that being independent, critical, open-minded put them out of comfort zones… and that doing “big picture” things didn’t gel with their perception of HSC/syllabus dot points/Yr 12. Funny thing is that going deeper and big picture actually makes for better, more meaningful, connected learning,.. but also helps with the synthesis of knowledge required for the higher bands. Hattie’s academic self-perception…Thanks!

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