Thursday, August 20, 2015

Motivated by Stature

Many people measure their success by comparing themselves to others. If they are at the top of that food chain, they will feel a sense of superiority and will likely continue to do well with as much effort to preserve that. If they are at the middle or the bottom, they will likely withdraw over time as they’ll never be able to surpass those at the top.

Anything we do in our classrooms that feeds into that culture will ultimately harm all of our students. What is needed is a belief system where people are not defined by their class rank but where everyone, including those at the top, has potential to improve.

I made the decision this summer to switch to comments-only grading which I believe will help instill this belief. Students will no longer be able to compare their grades with other students to determine where they fit in this hierarchy. All students will be asked to extend their thinking, including my highest-performing students. However, quiz feedback is just one small aspect of everything I do in a classroom. I can’t help but wonder how many of the other interactions I have with students might imply that I value ability over effort.

My hope is that, throughout this coming school year, I will regularly reflect on how my interactions with students, which are often subtle, might help or hinder this outlook.


  1. Pretty sure I will be making the switch as well this year- at least concerning grade level content standards. Please keep us posted on how this goes for you! Most teachers do not have the freedom to decide this for themselves, so despite what the research shows I don't think it's a common practice.

  2. I've been thinking about doing this too. However, doesn't your school require grades in the gradebook? How will you handle that? I'm very interested in what your thinking there. Thanks!

    1. I will still put grades in our online gradebook. Students can access those grades later, but not in my classroom.

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