Been on a feedback kick lately. As I look back over my years of grading student work–grades without comments, grades with comments, and comments without grades, it is the latter which sits best with me. It is the approach that feels most right, and apparently there is some evidence to back it up (see article). Grades get in the way of learning. They perpetuate a culture of transaction, where the grade, not the learning, becomes the goal. In the past, before 180 and some of my other efforts to do learning differently, I would witness time and again–to my utter disappointment–kids skipping over my comments just to find the grade. If they saw an A, “He loves me.” If they saw anything less, “He loves me not.” And despite my efforts to steer them to the growth-encouraging comments, they could not see beyond the alphabetical symbol that said everything and nothing at once.
But now, with 180, I have experienced a shift in how my kids receive and perceive feedback. No grades to distract and detract. Only comments, comments packaged in one of two ways: things to think about, and things to celebrate. And while I cannot speak precisely to what my kids feel when they get my feedback, I want to believe that either package communicates the same thing: “He loves me.” No winners. No losers. Just honest conversations about where each is in his learning. And I want to imagine that in those shared moments of our learning discussions, they hear me because they trust me. But that trust does not happen over night, nor does it happen by accident. To be sure, it takes lots of time and lots of intention. Of course, for some kids it takes even more time and more intention, and for some it won’t matter how much time and effort I spend, they still won’t fully trust me, won’t fully hear me. But it is not due to a lack of trying on my part. I can’t control everything. But I can control how I interact with my kids. I can control how I treat them. And I believe how I treat them is how they will trust me. Consequently, I believe many do trust me. And I am proud of that, for it took no fancy, pre-packaged, evidence-based approach; it simply took interacting with my kids: meeting each where she is, treating each as if she matters. Nothing fancy. A simple approach that costs only time and effort. An approach that is available to all. Always has been. Always will be.
Happy Tuesday, all.