NOVA Lab–Procedural Info: Grading

Many of you know that I have been shifting, slowly and imperfectly, from using grades (a habit born of . . . oh . . . a lifetime of being graded, earning grades, needing the approval of others, and, of course, “giving grades.”

For years I played that game, and I was (am) GOOD at it.  And then, some time ago, I realized that the game served no one well if what we were after in education was deeper learning.  An anecdote will serve best to illustrate here.

I recall being in a class on creativity and discussing with the presenter how I felt I had to go back to college so I could write a book (about water towers and, possibly, urinals).  The presenter looked at me and asked, “Why do you feel you need to go back to college to do that?”  And it hit me…hard…hard enough that now, 22 years later, I still see myself in that seat, at a motel on 309 in Montgomeryville, PA surrounded by over 50 other teachers.  And I feel my mind go…”Ooooohhhhhh.  Well lookie there.  Somebody found you out.”

‘See, I needed someone else’s approval of my work to make it “good enough.”  And where did that come from?  From being good at the game of school.  I didn’t realize it, but I literally NEEDED school to make me and my ideas feel valuable.

Indeed, when it came to learning, I rarely thought of it.  I thought more of being a good student.  I was the guy having this discussion:

I’m not that way anymore.  I’ve grown, which, in the end, is what learning is all about.  I changed myself because I learned.  It took a while, but I finally got the courage to ask myself:  “Why is this (schooling and grades) the way it is?”  What I found led me to nothing but treating humans as objects to be ranked, sorted, and divvied out into a workforce where, for little return, human labor is sold to others who profit in far greater ways than the laborers.  And so I asked the next question:  “How can we make it better?”  I found others in the same stage of evolution, many others, and together, we’re working towards something different.  IT IS NOT EASY.  IT IS NOT THE MOST EFFICIENT METHOD OF ASSESSING LEARNING.  But it is the most humane.  And I deal in human beings not objects of labor. (Though, of course, work is part of what gives our lives meaning.)

Anyway, when it comes to grades in this class, in all my classes anymore, we have to think different.  Here’s a link to the grading page in Nova Lab’s class overview.

Let’s talk about it.

Published by Garreth Heidt

Designerly Minded High School Humanities and Liberal Studies Teacher Faculty Mentor FIRST Robotics Team #7414--PV Retrobotics. Constantly learning, trying to be more a maker and less a consumer of culture. I believe in the infinite value of a liberal education and the power of design thinking to help make the world a better place.

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