It’s About Learning!

A friend, Brian Kayser, (@bkayser11 on Twitter) tweeted this tonight:  ESPN analyst “The great coaches adjust to their players [strengths]”

We all know great teachers do the same.

A while back, Carol Tomlinson, another friend, shared her beliefs about coaches and grading, which I blogged about here.

A bit of that bears repeating:

Let’s think about some people in real life who get judged on their performances every day they work—like sports players or musical performers, and look at how they learn as we think about some key principles of effective grading:.

1. Coaches don’t grade practices—they make decisions about what comes next based on the performance during practice. The judgement comes in at the game—or at the recital! It’s unwise to overgrade student work.

2.  Why would anyone think grading a pre-assessment is wise?  That’s what‘s supposed to give us information as to what to teach and how to group.  Why grade someone on something they are ABOUT TO LEARN?

3. Students need opportunities to practice, analyze work, and learn from errors in a safe context.   The formative assessments given should be just that—formative—not final grades. I’ll say it again—Coaches don’t grade practices, so why over-grade ongoing assessments?  Give feedback instead.

4. Use summative assessments and a body of evidence against the standards as primary data for grading. Grades should be reliable over time, meaning that the results of any given test on the standard would be relatively the same for the same kid.

5. Is the learning target clear?  Do students clearly understand what they need to know, understand and do? Grades should be based on clearly specified learning goals.

6. Grades should be criterion-based, NOT norm-based.

In norm based grading systems, the human factor suffers:

a.) There will necessarily be winners and losers competing for scarce rewards.
b.) The implications for learning environments are predictably negative.
c.) The outcomes for both struggling and advanced learners carry high negatives as well.

Students should be striving to reach the standards that have been set for them to learn, not competing against classmates for the top part of the bell curve.

So why am I writing about this now?  We are in the throes of doing midyear assessments…and many teachers used released state tests to do that. We give tests to kids on things they haven’t been taught and then flip when the scores are low–so we think we need to ramp up our remediation, our direct instruction, our telling kids things.

If we want a kid to play basketball, what do we ask the kid to do? Play basketball.

If we want a kid to play a musical instrument, what do we ask the kid to do?  Practice it.

If we want a kid to do ballet, what do we ask the kid to do?  Practice it!

You get the idea.

So why do we believe it’s okay to pull a kid who needs to learn to enjoy reading, who needs to feel confident, who needs to feel smart, out of a cool reading experience or great book they want to read and drill them?  Why do we feel us teaching them is more important than them experiencing it? I’ve seen it happen over and over in many schools….and it still saddens me beyond belief.

Great coaches teach to player’s strengths.  Great teachers do the same–and when a kid is a great talker, you make sure they have an opportunity to talk–and that they have something to say. When a kid notices EVERYTHING socially, but doesn’t succeed in school tasks, it’s not that the kid isn’t smart…it’s that s/he is choosing not to be smart at school tasks many times.  I’ve blogged about this many, many times.  We need to work from a strengths model, not a deficit model.  We need to look at what kids can do and build from there.

School is not about remediation.  It’s about learning.


2 thoughts on “It’s About Learning!

  1. Oh my goodness, you’re right on! I have said so many times to former students and to my own kids, who use to focus on ‘the grades”… it’s not about grades, it’s about learning. It’s about curiosity and the love of learning…
    Thanks for the brief and to the point posting… yes, it’s midyear time again… what will we do torturous???

  2. It’s why I offered lit groups during January….to give a break from the tension of testing… Thanks, Janelle.

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