In a school that values GROWTH, leaders and educators would be continuously asking and answering the question: Did the students’ knowledge and skills increase? Results from any and every assessment (formative or summative, teacher-made or standardized) would be used to determine if students’ knowledge level or proficiency in a certain skill had increased or changed for the better. If the information gained from any and every assessment showed that students were not growing, it would then be used as a diagnostic tool to determine what needed re-teaching or more time to develop. Resources would immediately be adjusted to enable that to happen. On the other hand, if assessment results showed that a cohort of students was already proficient and, as a result didn’t grow; it would be viewed as an opportunity for enrichment or a chance to take the students to the next level. Instruction on more advanced content or skills would be provided!
If you are interested in starting a conversation around concept of GROWTH, you need to immerse yourself the work of Carol Dweck who is a Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. She has written numerous books on the growth mind-set, which are available at: www.mindsetonline.com. More recently, she has published an article in Education Week: Carol Dweck Revisits the ‘Growth Mindset’ available at http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/09/23/carol-dweck-revisits-the-growth-mindset.html and has been featured on TEDTalks: The Power of Believing You Can Improve. Click below to watch!!
Right now, as you read this blog, educators are using grades to provide feedback to students about the way they PURSUE excellence. Nice, compliant students are given good “participation” grades or homework passes. Challenging or disengaged students are marked down for late projects or given zeros for missed assignments. These punitive grading strategies are all used with the best of intentions: to motivate students and prepare them for the “real world” whether that is at a college or in the workplace.
In a school that values the PURSUIT of excellence, the criteria for good “participation” would be made clear to all students. They would know specifically what is expected of them and have a well-defined idea of how they should employ their “soft-skills” in the classroom or while at school!
If you are interested increasing the importance of “habits of mind” at your school, you should start by exploring James Anderson’s website available at http://habitsofmind.org. Numerous other resources are also easily accessible on the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) website available at: http://www.ascd.org. The website even has a sample chapter from Costa and Kallick’s book entitled: Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind. Click here to read it: http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/108008/chapters/Describing-the-Habits-of-Mind.aspx.
In a school that values ACHIEVEMENT, leaders and educators would be continuously asking and answering the question: Did students really LEARN what they’re supposed to learn? In a school that values ACHIEVEMENT, the focus would shift from “coverage and completion” to “comprehension and creativity.” Success would be measured on LEARNING rather than coverage. All stakeholders would continuously discuss questions like: How many students learned the information that they were supposed to at a basic level? How many become fully proficient? How many exceeded our expectations for proficiency? How can we move the students at the basic level into proficiency? How do we move proficient students into mastery? Do our local standards for proficiency align with college and career readiness standards at a national level? What do we need to adjust? What can we get rid of? What do we need more of? The list of goes on and on!
To help your school begin these conversations, I would recommend starting with my favorite “go-to” books by Robert Marzano: Classroom Assessment & Grading that Work and Transforming Classroom Grading. I have used many of Marzano’s publications and resources throughout my career. Not only is he a master of the art of meta-analysis, he is also gifted in translating theory into practice! Many of his books and publications are either free or on-sale through the ASCD and many more are available through his website: http://www.marzanoresearch.com
Caution: once you start delving into these questions more will arise! Here’s the next one: Are students learning the things that they need to know and the skills to necessary to survive and thrive in the 21st century?