Saturday, October 22, 2011

How to Kill #sbar in the Classroom

So, how do you kill #sbar in the classroom – assign a letter grade!

This year I made the leap into full standards-based grading. It has been going quite well. Conversations with students have been centered around the question, “Señora, how can I show you I am proficient on goal [X]?”, rather than “How many more points do I need to ____?” This is so refreshing for me, as an educator and life-long learner.

This past week, however, has been a little different. Kids are all of a sudden reverting back to questions like, “OK, so if I don’t pass this quiz, what will my grade be?” and “how many more quizzes do I need to do to have grade [x]?” argh!! What’s the difference? End of the quarter grades! All of a sudden reality has set in and kids realize they need to have such-and-such a grade. I have observed kids who are very focused on their learning goals shift their focus to grade and point-centered beings again. I know reality sets in soon or later, but I am hoping to reach a point in time when we don’t have letter grades pressuring kids under a deadline from outside the classroom.

Yesterday there were about half a dozen students in my room after school trying to reach their required minimum number of goals for an arbitrary letter on a piece of paper. While I do understand the importance of those letters, I don’t like how it corrupts the learning environment for learners.

One particular student best demonstrates this phenomenon. He scrambled to get assignment X completed for the sake of completing it, but didn’t truly understand the material. He took an extra 5 minutes to actually watch the video notes. In my questioning with him, it was very apparent that he didn’t really watch the video at all! He was just trying to write some bogus nonsense just to complete it. After about 10-15 minutes of questions and answers, he had a much better understanding of the concept. While he missed hanging with his friends who were waiting for him, we had a great discussion about completing a task versus learning a concept. This is what I love about #sbar. Unfortunately, the pressure of a letter grade got in the way of his initial learning.

1 comment:

  1. Unfortunately we are (most of us) stuck with the ABCDF grading system, along with the quarter/semester/year system. I hope that one day I see a system where students have specific standards, and work to achieve all of them, and graduation is a certification that they have achieved all of the specific standards to at least a minimum level. Whether they completed their Sophomore physics based standards in their second year, or first, or fifth, really shouldn't matter in my opinion. Can they demonstrate the minimum level of acceptable understanding on all of the standards? Graduation should happen when the answer to that question is "yes".