Monday, January 17, 2011

Learning first, ranking second.

I have addressed how teachers and students can look past grades, marks and other extrinsic motivators, however there is another group that needs to get on board and they are parents.   Some of my friends, who teach the younger grades and are trying to abolish grades and homework, have informed me there is a pushback from parents. 
First, there is not one shred of evidence that supports the idea of homework in elementary grades.  Parents need to be aware of this fact.  After watching the movie “Race to Nowhere”, and reading many research papers, it has become very evident that elementary kids should not have homework stress outside of school.   Unfortunately, homework is not the only thing adding stress; grades create stress as well.
The truth is that for most students, the above picture is actually their life outside of school.  Your high achievers are becoming stressed to maintain their high grades, while your low achievers are stressed in keeping their head above water.
How do we cut down this stress?  Parents need to stop asking the following questions:
“What did you get on your test?”
“What is your mark in the class?”
“Do you have any homework?”
“When is your next report card?”
The questions should be replaced with:
“What did you learn today?”
“Is there anything you are not understanding in class?”
“Did you have fun today?”

"Is there anything else you would like to learn about what you learnt today?
 Society needs to start focusing more on the learning occurring and less on the ranking of students.  In reality, what do marks really do? RANK students!  Do parents send their children to school, to be ranked or to learn?  I hope the latter is the answer, and if so why are the questions about school focusing on the ranking and not learning?


  1. Do you use "I learned.." statements in your class? It's a tool for assessment actually, you ask the students to explain what they learned. Ex. "I learned that 3x2 is the same as 2+2+2." Then the student can provide another example from the statement showing the rule in another way. It's a great way to incorporate journals and correspondence home so the parents can read those statements to find out what their students learned.
    I am still not completely on board with you about ridding all education of the Rote memorization tools. I always use reading as an example, and our sight words in the English Language. There are just some words that students have to learn from sight because they don't follow phonics rules. I am not saying that kids should just look at that word over and over again, with no context, but reading at home is a vital "homework" procedure for children learning to read. In Sweden or Norway they have 100% literacy by the time the students start school, and a big part of that reasoning is two fold really. One students don't start school until they are 7, and there is a big push within the country to have students reading at home and doing activities at home to help with their literacy. Just some food for thought.

  2. I agrre with your points and also Jean's remarks above. In our school we use "I can..." statements to help focus learning. I just came off of interviews/conferences and though there was still too much focus on a simple grade. People like a quick, uninformative benchmark still.

  3. Had too much to say about this one, David. It's all in my rebuttal post here:

    Generally, I agree a smidge.