When Mark Barnes decided to stop grading students’ work, it changed everything, he writes on Education Week Teacher. “I’ll never put a number, percentage, or letter on any activity or project you complete,” he told his seventh graders.
Students who had only experienced traditional grades throughout their school lives were asked to discuss learning, to reflect and, ultimately, to evaluate themselves. Many were shocked, when we discussed an activity, and I asked them to return to prior learning, to rethink what they had done, and rework the activity for further discussion. An amazing and enriching ongoing conversation about learning was born.
I would review each student’s work, summarize and explain what I had observed, and ask questions. “Did you consider doing it this way?” I might inquire. “What would it look like if you tried this instead?” Soon, students had these informative conversations with each other, as they grew into enthusiastic, independent learners, who never feared a bad grade, because there were no grades.
The school required grades on the report card. At the end of the grading period, Barnes asked students to discuss their in-class activities and projects and suggest what grade they’d earned.
Here’s Barnes’ 7 reasons teachers should stop grading their students from his blog, Brilliant or Insane.
Starr Sackstein, a writing and journalism teacher, co-teaches a publications elective with two math teachers. They discuss letting students assess their own learning.