Trophies, Smiley Faced Stickers, and A's do not set the stage for longterm success!
Before you answer the question posed above with..."You are crazy!" Please read and listen to some of what follows.
There have been interesting conversations coming out of Canada this week about the abolition of grades and awards ceremonies in schools.
The conversation stems from an article titled Winners and Losers that was in the Vancouver Courier yesterday. The article focuses on a decision made by Chris Wejr and his staff at Kent Elementary in Agassiz, British Columbia to do away with year-end awards ceremonies in an effort to recognize each student.
As I listened to Chris being interviewed by radio station CKNW 980 in Vancouver yesterday, there was one comment that really hit home for me.
"Kids improve when they get descriptive feedback not when they get an A."My thoughts immediately turned to my own son who is a consistent honor roll student in his middle school, with high honors all four terms last year in grade 6. I even asked the question in a post last year - Does it really matter? Add into the equation that 295 of the 465 students in my son's seventh grade class made the honor roll in the first term this year and I wonder even more. He is getting good grades, but how about detailed feedback about his ability to write, read, communicate, problem solve, think critically, etc.?
Chris summed up what I am seeing with my son in his post last June Death of an Awards Ceremony when he said:
"What motivates students? Grades (and honour rolls) or learning? There are many students that are unfortunately only motivated by grades. This is not their fault, it is what has been taught to them. The comments such as “if you want an A, you must do this…” or “if you do this, you will lose marks” have taught students that grades and achievement is more of a priority than learning. Grades are extrinsic motivators while learning results in more intrinsic motivation. So, do we want students to motivated by grades or learning? Learning!"Not to mention the fact that research has shown that praise without concrete feedback can cause negative repercussions in regards to the motivation of students. Carol Dweck has done a great deal of research on this topic and she sums it up quite clearly in her book Mindset.
"There is a strong message in our society about how to boost children’s self-esteem, and a main part of that message is: Protect them from failure ! While this may help with the immediate problem of a child’s disappointment, it can be harmful in the long run."George Couros, another progressive Principal in Stony Plain, Alberta, also focused on this topic back in August in his post The Impact of Awards. He had another quote on this topic from Alfie Kohn's The Risk of Rewards:
Lately at BHS, we have been involved in discussion about how we weight classes. To be honest, I have trouble getting excited about any conversations about grades and course weights. I think the more important discussion is the one that focuses on our curriculum and ensuring that we are offering courses that are engaging all students and we are actively assessing our own effectiveness in this process.
Unfortunately, in my experience as a student, there was no correlation between my best learning experiences and my best grades. While I know this is not always the case, I know that anyone who has gone through a formal education can relate to what I am saying. Despite this knowledge, I think that parents who see all A's on their child's report card do not question the substance of actual learning that the A represents.
How do we change this? Am I wrong about grades? Should I be so as concerned as I am?