Former student and aspiring educator, Rachael Hamby, joined the journey by challenging me and pushing me to take it further. Here were her thoughts.
You really should put together a scientific study and get your results published. Maybe you are already doing this, I am not sure. The blog is great, I read it daily. But all I really see on it is anecdotal evidence. I love your idea so much I almost wrote you an essay on why I loved it. But then I thought, all I have to put in this essay is anecdotal evidence. And as a scientist, that just isn’t enough for me to be truly convinced. As much as I personally believe that guaranteeing every student an A and taking grades out of the equation will promote student success, I can’t really buy it until it’s got research to back it up. Furthermore, having research that is publishable will allow you to reach a wider audience. Your findings will be far more credible and you can present at conferences, etc.
I realize you have all your own ideas, and that I am just a college student with no experience teaching, but this is how I might research how grading practices affect student achievement.
To start, what is your research question? How does removing grades as a motivator effect student success? Something along those lines? And how do you define success? Perhaps as content mastery? I think I’d maybe say…Does removing grades from the classroom improve student content mastery and motivation? Something like that.
Now you need a way of measuring content mastery and motivation that is not a grade, which isn’t too tricky. Various measures throughout the quarter would be most effective. Ways of measuring student engagement during class would be helpful as well, though having observers in the classroom can effect engagement and the way the teacher presents material.
I guess what I would do, would be recruit some other teachers willing to try this. The more classrooms, the more accurate the research results. Start in September and have these teachers grade for the first quarter as they always have previously. However, come up with ways to test student motivation, engagement, and content mastery, throughout the quarter and at the end of the quarter. The second quarter, have the teachers guarantee all their students A’s and repeat whatever tests you used. Compare results, both qualitative and quantitative. What you are doing right now serves as a good pilot study, but I think it makes the results more credible if you do not use your own classroom simply because it makes the study more objective.
I honestly think you are really on to something and I am so excited to see how it works out for your classroom! I look forward to your blog every morning, it makes me so excited to one day be a teacher. I just really think if you can go about this in a scientific way and are able to get your results published in a peer reviewed journal, your findings could reach a larger audience and would be seen as much more credible.
So, I hear you, and I am taking your suggestions to heart and will consider them fully and seriously as I move forward. You are right everything is anecdotal at this point. My plan is to pilot and collect data from my classroom, most of which will be qualitative for the next two years. I have a lot of thinking to do on the research end of it before I roll it out next year. I’m going to call phase one “Project 180,” whereupon I am turning education “upside down.” Phase 2 will be “Project 360,” where I bring it full circle, judging the results of my experiment and determining what then will be the next course of action, not only in my classroom but hopefully beyond. So, in terms of credibility and possibly “replicability” much will depend on the design of my study. So, kiddo, point well-made and taken. I love that you are jumping in on the journey. Keep the feedback coming, chica.