We should rethink grades. They’re not great measurements anymore.


You can get an A. That’s the best grade you can get. Some schools add a “+” after the A. I still don’t fully understand it. Then there is the B. “You’re doing a great job but just not enough for an A.” The next one is probably the most misunderstood grade: the C. This is when you do all of your work and you turn it in on time. That’s it. However, according to many of my high school students, they believe that doing all their work and turning it in on time should be an A. Showing up on time is enough. Then, comes the D. For me, this one sometimes hurts more than an F because it shows that you’re trying to get a C but you fell short. Ouch. Finally, the ugliest Mark on a piece of paper. The Scarlet letter. That stain on your white dress: the F! Simply put, you failed! As a teacher, I have had the unfortunate experience in issuing many of these. It hurt every time because of what it meant in school. And the message it was delivering for life.

Reflection: why don’t we rethink this process? We’re obviously rethinking many other things, however, we sometimes forget to rethink how we measure because what we’re measuring is changing so drastically. Historically, we measured knowing-the accumulation of knowledge. We didn’t have a measurement tool for learning. Think about it: we can look up most of the questions that were asked of us while we went through our schooling process. We can look at up without even typing it. We just ask Siri. If Siri was available to me going through school, I would’ve used her as many times as possible. This would’ve had a major impact on my grades. So now that we have access to tools like this that affect knowing and the measuring of knowing, why don’t we rethink how we measure.

I recently saw a video of a scientist explaining scientific philosophy. He found that people who are failure adverse, do not perform as well as people who are more error/recovery minded and directed. People who are open to try, to risk, to not succeed, however, learn from that experience and make adjustments along the way, do much better in the science fields. In fact, he mentioned that they are even much more fun to work with. They are less stressed out.

Error recovery. Let’s think about that. What a great concept. Think about it. This is how we learn best. Isn’t it? There’s a wonderful measurement tool that coincides with this. You have a base of information, a result, feedback, and adjusting. This is a natural framework that we have failed to incorporate into our pedagogy and thus measuring. People who are good at error recovery, are good at talking about it. This is an important trait. Thinking out loud. Talking about I’m talking through the process, the journey, the story. Athletes look at hours and hours of video looking at what errors they made so they can make adjustments. I doubt many of them look at their highlights just to high-five themselves. They want to know how they can improve, get better.

So, let’s reflect on how we measure learning today. What tools do we have available to us to assist us with measuring what really matters.

Think about it from a big picture perspective as well. How can the world benefit from a learning environment that measures learning as opposed to knowing. Is in a the right way to tell the story of that lesson, project?

We have to leverage the powers of the new mobile and connected technologies to help us rethink fundamental questions about measuring what learning (and learning from) looks like today. We need to think about adding the letters “ER” for error recovery as a new grade for our learners. I know what It stands for emergency room for now, however, for now it’s just a thought.

A lesson learned, for the most part, is a story of error recovery. With video, audio, and social media we have new avenues to help tell this very important story that has not had The infrastructure to facilitate this evolution.

Challenge: look around you, look in front of you I think about what you can do to leverage the resources available to you to help tell a much more effective and efficient story of the learning journey.

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