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Blog: Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020

What does it Mean to Go Gradeless

By Linda Pollastretti

“Imagine a class where students value their growth in learning and not the grade attached to their work.”  I realized my values did not align with my teaching practice, so I made the transformation. I dared to imagine and made the conscious decision to change the culture in my classroom from measuring success in terms of grades to honoring Process and learning Growth. The challenge was how to communicate this to the students.

 It began by going gradeless. The students would never see a number, only the development of their skills. Then students learned to track their skills and graph their progress 2-3 times a semester. In Science class, we talked about creating visuals to represent your thoughts, ideas and data in the form of pictures, concepts maps or graphs. Using performance indicators without numbers and assessments evaluating skill areas, the students were able to accurately identify positive, negative or neutral patterns in their skill development. Positive progress (graph 1, in the DATA picture below) shows growth, which builds confidence and empowers students to continue with this trajectory. Negative progress (graph 2, in the DATA picture below) means that this is challenging for the student, so to strengthen and build their skills, listening/reading/responding to feedback on their work becomes vital for their growth. Neutral (zero) progress (Graph 3, in the DATA picture below) suggests that the student is in a zone of comfort and no progress is being made. I encourage the students to take some risks in their learning and try new strategies, so they can continue to grow.

At the end of the semester, the students do not have a final exam but an Exit Interview to discuss their progress throughout the class. They discuss their graphs and prove with evidence where they are in terms of all their skill development and as a team we come to an agreement on their final mark. There is no averaging of marks from the beginning of the semester. The mark reflects “where they are/what they can sustain now in their skill development”. We continue the discussion by looking to the future and creating goals that can help them further succeed in their skill development when starting the next semester.

I imagined, I aligned my values to my practice, I took action in my classroom, redefined success as growth and cultivated the value of process. This is what life-long learning looks like to me and to my students. Can you imagine?

To learn more about Going Gradeless:

·       Catlin Tucker’s new book, “Balance in Blended Learning” features this concept

·       Joanne Weatherby & Sandy Gill (RHSS) provide a full day “Going Gradeless” workshop

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