Jonathan Grizou

Grading for proud

I hate grading. Not the hard part of giving constructive feedback, but the easy part of assigning a number to a human being.

First, grades measure position, not speed, and never velocity. Position is where you are right now. Speed is how fast your are learning. And velocity is where you are going with it, it is practical steps you could take in your learning journey. Velocity is what you want.

Second, grades are external sources of validation. I certainly missed the memo stating schools's mission was to grow obedient adults driven by a carrot and a stick. Let's remember that grades are not designed for students but for administrators in need to discipline, measure, and report.

"Of course", I heard you say, "but I am stuck with the system, I must assign grades or I'll loose my job".

You are right. You and me won't change the system, but we can play with it. We can use grades at our advantage and make them irrelevant, all at once.

How? By grading for proud.

Try asking for an essay titled "I am proud". The essay should detail why one is proud of the work they did, or will do, in your class. There is nowhere to hide from proud. Proud is an internal anchor, it is different for you and me, and relative to our current position, speed and velocity. Proud is what we all hope for.

Want more? Try giving everyone an A right from the start if they write you a letter starting with "I got an A because...". Again, no place to hide, and the grade becomes irrelevant.

What is relevant is the promise we make ourselves in that process. We all remember fondly times we were proud of ourselves, and nobody wants to cheat themselves out of the memory of being proud of something.

I believe our responsibility is to develop, in ourselves and others, a capacity for introspection and outrospection. By understanding what makes us proud, what drives us, while acknowledging our fellow humans, we can own our life-long learning journey and give direction and meaning to our lives.

Let's aim to develop this attitude into our students.

Try grading for proud.