Tis the season of report cards and “grades,” so I thought I would take this opportunity to revisit a core, fundamental component of the CSD philosophy. Much research has been done around the notion of ‘motivation,’ and a few glaring truths tend to surface in each study. When people are motivated by external factors (grades being an example of this), not only is the desired outcome compromised, but the ‘motivation’ tends to wane over time. One such researcher, Alfie Kohn, an incredibly intelligent, articulate speaker, has written many articles on this very topic. http://www.alfiekohn.org/bio.htm As a change agent, he tends to have a very left-wing approach to the topics on which he speaks, and while we do not always agree with every single thing he says hook, line, and sinker, he never fails to stimulate thought and conversation around these topics. Below, I have included a couple of his articles about the dangers and pitfalls of traditional grades, as well as a nice video summarizing Standards-Based Grading (the grading system we use for K-7 at CSD).
Grading: The Issue Is Not How But Why by Alfie Kohn:
From Degrading to De-Grading by Alfie Kohn:
Standards-Based Grading Overview:
Hopefully these resources will serve as reminders as to why we do what we do at CSD and will stimulate meaningful thought and dialogue between students, parents, and teachers! As always, our goal is not necessarily to be “right,” but to provoke thought, and at the very least, to provide explanations behind the research-based best practices we use at CSD.
So in closing, I would like to shift the focus from ‘grades’ (or the end result) to the bigger picture of the ‘journey’ (or the process). Joy wrote the newsletter below several years ago when we were a neophyte middle school. All these years later, her words still ring so true that I would be remiss if I didn’t share them with you. As you read it, think on how Joy’s message ties into the notion of “grades” and learning and the bigger picture of what we are trying to help our kids accomplish as they forge ahead on their own educational journeys. May we be united in our efforts to intrinsically motivate students as life-long learners who love learning for the sake of learning, regardless of any number or letter that may be attached to it. Because when it’s all said and done, isn’t that what it’s really all about?
Question—How can we be successful?
Answer—Hard work! (by Joy Warner)
A few years ago I read the best seller, Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell and was re-minded of something critical when it comes to school and learning. We often think that people in this world are either born brilliant or they are not. It never occurs to most of us that we could be one of the “great” leaders in this world because we believe that those people are the “others” around us. In the book, Gladwell hits upon powerful data when studying those who excel, and shares an important ingredient to success: Time! Even with the great masters of our history, the secret behind their success is often related to hard work and dedicated time. In fact, Gladwell even goes so far as to give a number. He says the magic number is ten thousand hours. When you consider it…I mean really ponder it, it makes sense. When you love something, you spend more time doing it. When you spend more time doing something, you get better at it. When you excel at something, you love it more. When you love it more, you do it even more. Alas, the secret to success is right in front of us. The great athletes, the great artists, the great mathematicians, the great scientists, the great historians, the great academic leaders—they all have one thing in common: hard work.