My students started their self-assessment for Term 2 today (in the 2 French classes I teach). I also managed to start the individual conferences with my students. During these conferences, we discussed the Prescribed Learning Outcomes (PLOs) for the term and how their knowledge, in relation to these PLOs, translate into a letter grade. In doing this, we also discussed the Ministry of Education descriptions for each letter grade.
After completing a good number of individual conferences, here are some of the conclusions I made today:
Letter grades ….
– squash learning
– inhibit motivation
– contribute to the disengagement of students in our schools
– put undo pressure on students
– take away from the actual learning
– contribute to the decline of relationships: between parents and child, child and teacher, and parents and teachers.
– shut our most vulnerable students down.
I would much rather give each child an A in the classes I teach. I know, giving every student an “A” would mean that the “A” didn’t really mean anything, but it actually *may* mean a lot.
- It may mean success for a child who may never have seen themselves as successful (especially at school).
- It may mean extra time spent with family members.
- It may mean that a child improves their attitude toward school.
- It may help a child want to come to school.
- It may put a smile on a child’s face, where there usually isn’t one present.
- It may help increase a child’s self-confidence (albeit very temporarily).
- It may improve relationships with those that matter to the child.
If you would like to take a look at some of the research about letter grades and what letter grades do to kids, here is some research for you to read:
From Degrading to De-Grading by Alfie Kohn
The Case Against Grades by Alfie Kohn
If we want to engage, motivate, and encourage REAL learning by our students in our schools today and in the future, we need to look more closely at letter grades and how they are affecting our students. As a result, the answer is not to give each child an “A”, but the answer may be in doing away with letter grades altogether.
What do you think?