Do Teachers Focus on Grades – Or Learning?

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We are not what we know – but what we are willing to learn.”

-Mary Catherine Bateson

            Do teachers and parents focus on grades or learning? This is a fairly straightforward question – and yet, it’s a concept that most people may not consider. If we only motivate students to “earn good grades” – are we setting them up for failure later in life? There is no grading system for life after graduation. There are only choices – choices which will lead to either positive growth, or personal downfall. What we teach children in the classroom today will determine their mindset for how they make decisions and approach obstacles tomorrow. Perhaps if we teach them the real value is learning, then they will be given a life-long recipe for success.

            Parents: at your next parent/teacher conference, ask not only how your child is progressing, but ask the teacher how is your child learning? Teachers: what is your educational philosophy? What are you emphasizing in your lessons? Listed below are some key factors in promoting learning –  that both parents and teachers should ensure are a part of the classroom experience:

  1. Help students understand how they most effectively learn. By providing students with the opportunity to reflect on their learning, you allow them to have each lesson become meaningful. Students can achieve this by keeping a learning log, writing reflections about what they learned from an assignment, or by having a discussion with a peer.

  2. Offer varied assessments. Not all students learn the same way – or are proficient in every testing format. Students should have the opportunity to demonstrate their mastery of a concept through various platforms: presentations, written response, demonstration, etc. It is more important to consider the depth of an assignment – so that it has more meaning to the student.

  3. Give students a choice. If teachers give students some control or a choice as to how they will be assessed, they might be surprised by the results. By fostering the belief that the student is responsible for what they learn, you indirectly set an expectation – and more often than not, the student will take that responsibility seriously. Kids love having input – and are proud to have some ownership in what they have accomplished.

  4. Take the pressure off of grading. Students are more motivated when they have an opportunity to be involved in what they are learning, know what is expected of them, and when they feel capable. Teachers should provide rubrics with clear guidelines for assignments, self/peer evaluations, and non-graded work/ discussion to help the student become invested and apply the material in a personal way.

  5. Be a good role model. This tip is for both parents AND teachers. It is essential for the adults in a child’s life to practice what they preach – and be able to visually see the benefits of productive choices. Both parents and teachers should demonstrate that learning never stops – and that you are interested in continuing to pursue your own learning process.

          Ultimately, assessment and formal feedback should promote learning for students, not intimidate them and narrow their perspective of what learning is all about. Education is far more than what takes place inside the classroom – so let’s walk together, and lead our children down a path that leads to a love of learning, and a dedication to pursuing a successful future.   

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