Let's Change Education

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Category: Their Thoughts

Rachael’s Recommendation: Their Thoughts, April 19, 2016

Former student and aspiring educator, Rachael Hamby, joined the journey by challenging me and pushing me to take it further. Here were her thoughts.

Mr. Syrie,
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.

Good luck!
Rachael Hamby

My response…

Hey, Hamby,

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.

Their Thoughts

Response to Weekly Wonder: I wonder if we should fail kids.  http://www.letschangeeducation.com/?p=254

I’ll start by agreeing about mission impossible. I work with developmental disabled adults and my job is to teach them daily living skills. However, when I am working with 3-6 adults that all need constant assistance in necessities such as grooming, eating, and tolieting, it proves to be difficult not to take short cuts. What the state of Washington is expecting from staff is really not plausible unless each adult had their own trainer to meet all their needs. I believe the struggle of being an educator is that they want every one of their students to succeed but can’t possibly individualize a lesson for 150 kids. Some kids undoubtedly will fall short. Now as far as the failing kids question…I think it may be a light shown on the keyhole that may lead a change. Here’s how: Students who fail are not motivated to try again or harder (typically). Once a student is sent down a path of failing they typically accept they aren’t able and leave it at that. I took a intro to literature class which I was very excited about but the class was huge and it was just lectures and computer work. I found this very unappealing and failed the course twice even knowing the majority of the material the second time taking it. I will NOT try a third time because I know it does not work for me.
Here’s where I get a little contradictory.
I think there has to be some failure. If a classroom is designed for everyone to pass there is not challenge, strive, or correction. There would be not measurable data whether the teacher is teaching effectively or if the students are really learning. I do however believe that there should be multiple things in the classroom that are fail proof. All that is needed is participation. In all subjects, if a student is giving some hope that they have a chance of succeeding or given a confidence boost I think we’ll see an improvement in classroom performance.

~Alyssa Abel, Cheney High School graduate, student at Eastern Washington University

Their Thoughts

I am motivated mostly because of my goal to do well in the future but what ruins my motivation is teachers that do not care about actually teaching and having students learn. The teachers who tell you what it is that you are doing but do not check for your understanding before making you try to do the work. If a teacher is motivated to help the kids actually comprehend what they are doing, the students, including myself, will be more motivated to learn.

Hailee Huff, Sophomore, Cheney High School



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