Saturday, April 25, 2015

Moving Mindsets

How can learning really be measured? Grades are not the way to measure learning. Grades are subjective and should be replaced with meaningful narrative feedback that would help the student understand what learning outcomes have or have not been mastered. Feedback encourages learning and gives real meaning, suggestions, and guidelines to the student. A "grade" really tells us NOTHING! Learning should be shared, discussed and evaluated openly; these discussions should be accompanied by objective feedback that guides students to other possibilities and to reflection and self-evaluation (Mark Barnes, 2012). Grades also serve as an intellectual segregator. First off, they do not show "how smart" a student is, only how compatible they are with the current education system. Teachers need to recognize different types of learners and educate them accordingly. Feedback benefits the student (constructive criticism) and the teacher gets a better game plan on how to differentiate the instructor based on where the individual student is. I am in total favor of a Results Only Learning environment. This environment for learning offers autonomy and ignites a thirst for learning. It promotes collaboration and lets students "CHOOSE" the way they want to learn. No worries about a "No Zero" here, because students are engaged and invested in their own learning. Student achievement goal setting is a skill that is being used in our elementary schools in my district. Student academic progress is a significant component of evaluation. This could easily be carried over into my middle school. A results-only system makes learning a shared responsibility between teachers and students. This learning environment is student-centered and project-based. I do a project in Health called "Free to Learn". Students can choose anything they want to learn about as long as it affects their health or the health of others. Well that pretty much branches out to just about anything in this world. Students begin this project-based learning at the end of December and carry it over until their presentation in May. Guidelines are provided and my role as a teacher has changed from provider of information, to facilitator of whatever I can help with. I solicit parents, experts, and community members to assist in the learning process. I provide help where needed, so the responsibility is shared. Everyone involved provides narrative feedback to change and improve any activity, in order to demonstrate learning. Yearlong projects target learning outcomes more meaningfully than worksheets, homework, tests, and quizzes. It does require a lot of individualized work, but I learn even more than the students. Their topics are so wide and varied, that it requires a lot of connections that are way outside of my comfort zone. I get stretched right along beside them. A rubric is provided at the beginning, so that the expectations are clear and set. They match up with Standards and clearly define each level of proficiency. Unfortunately, my system still uses a letter grade system, but I correlate the rubric with feedback to an end grade. not the ideal way to do it, but until the system changes I still must conform to its unity. Real results correlate with real-meaning to a project that makes a difference to the individual, the community, or to the world. This is real 21st century learning. School should be about the learning, not the grade. It’s about mastering concepts, not being tested on them. It's about learning to fail and how to pick yourself up and try something else. It's not about giving up if at first you don't succeed! This is how you instill a love for learning!