With any substantive change, there must be a comprehensive plan, which includes frequent communication. Over the next nine days, we’ll continue to discuss the elimination of grades in the classroom, and the second installment of my Twitter slowchat on #HackingAssessment will be about how to promote a shift to a “no grade” classroom. I am basing my posts and our chats off of Hacking Assessment: 10 Ways to Go Gradeless, by Starr Sackstein.
Change is hard because humans are creatures of habit and prefer the path of least resistance. I just read a tweet from someone in my PLN (professional learning network) that said we shouldn’t announce change because change should be our new norm. While I agree that this would be ideal, I’m not sure our culture in education has ascended to this level. Just getting an entire school staff on board with a shared vision takes time and is very challenging work. I believe this work must begin immediately, and in conjunction with school and district leadership. Ongoing communication and promotion about any change effort are critical to its success.
The most practical things from the book that resonated with me are starting a small pilot to raise awareness and collect data on the effectiveness of a classroom without grades. Starting small when making significant changes helps those less comfortable with change ease into the concept. Some people need to see before they will believe. Such a pilot should begin with learning sessions for administration and peers, so they are “in the know” about what you’re up to in your classroom. It’s critical that even if your peers are still unsure of going gradeless, you don’t want them spreading negative messages about your pilot. You need their support!
I also strongly agree with Starr that creating your school’s hashtag is critical. I am a huge proponent of the power of Twitter and being a connected learner and leader. What better opportunity to share with your peers, other perspectives from educational leaders in the Twittersphere that are challenging the grading paradigm; this can help to build your credibility. Of all things we could do to change grading practices, spending the time on buy-in and building a more collaborative culture with peers and leadership should be high on the priority list.
Thank you, Starr, for providing practical ways to move towards a grade-free classroom!