What can I do to get an A? There are no words more cringe worthy in my classroom; none.
When I hear these words I not only feel that I am failing as a teacher to stress LEARNING and not letters, but also at giving students plenty of time to experience what learning IS. As a teacher for 7 years now, I have set many a goal for myself. Some as petty as organization, some more weighty involving assessments, but I was always setting goals. The last two years however, my goals took a drastic turn in focus, and THAT my friend, has made all the difference.
Why would I grade my students based on an arbitrary (and mathematically unfair) points chase? What message am I sending my kids to focus on learnging if I tend to focus on a letter? Standards Based Grading has changed me. As a teacher, a learner, and a professional, it has changed me. My focus and goals have now become entirely about student growth and learning. For example, goal 1: All students will know what it is I want them to learn and why. goal 2: My students will know what they are doing well on and what it is they need to work on. I want learning to become thiers, not mine. It is not a process in which I ‘do’ to them, it is a process in which they must contruct on their own.
What does this mean for the student? It undoubtedly means they are not passive participants in class, they must actively take the reigns of their own learning and realize their critical role in it. Students will have to learn to be proactive in the process and not reactive to a grade. Quite possibly the most important skill though will be to know themselves as a learner and find out what works for them. Learning is different for every individual. It happens at a different rate, time, and place for each person; students have to understand this. They will learn their learning style and their areas of strength (we all have them!) and then learn to utilize those in class.
What does that mean for me? Well, for starters I have to give control up of the classroom. I cannot expect to break misconceptions or create rich experiences in my classroom if I am the only place students turn to for ‘answers’. I have learned, and still am, that they can learn a great deal of information through experience and discussion. Students have to feel that they are a part of the content, otherwise information remains information and never bcomes knowledge. It also means that I have to provide students with many chances to show me what they know and can do. This is not to insinuate that at some point students are ‘done’ learning a particular skill it is more to communicate to them how they are doing along the way.
I am not the most important component in my students’ learning, my students are. Standards based grading (and teaching) has allowed me the freedom to not only believe this, but to pass this on to my students.