Now’s the Time to Take the Plunge

Teachers Going Gradeless is just two months old and our Facebook group has ballooned to include over 2,000 members from almost every continent on the globe (still no Antarctica).

We’d like you to join us for a series of Twitter chats this summer, examining the whys, the hows, and the whats of going gradeless. The goal is to equip you with the rationale, the know-how, and the vision for you to take the plunge this coming school year.

The Schedule

On Friday, the moderator of the chat will “drop” a video on Facebook and Twitter introducing themselves and the topic of the chat. Here’s my cofounder, Aaron Blackwelder, introducing Sunday’s chat.

On Friday and Saturday, this video will proceed to “blow up” or “go viral,” expanding our virtual “reach” to every corner of the globe (except Antarctica). People will like, comment on, and share the posts widely. They will invite all of their friends, colleagues, and family members, who may believe they have joined a cult. Rest assured, we are not a cult. We just think it will be easier for you when all the people in your life have adopted our doctrines.

On Sunday from 9–10 p.m. EST, our Twitter chat will convene under the hashtag #tg2chat on Twitter (please start using this hashtag exclusively for all your TG² related tweets; the Italian television station had it first! 🇮🇹). If you’ve never participated in a Twitter chat, please watch the video below, made by a principal preparing his staff for their first chat. As you will see, he recommends using TweetDeck as a way of streamlining your participation. We recommend that too. Just make sure you set up #tg2chat as one of your columns. (And don’t be surprised if a gif battle breaks out at 10 o’clock.)

The Topics

Sunday, June 25, 2017: Why Go Gradeless?

This chat will focus on the rationale for gradelessness, from the standpoint of research, anecdotal experience, and its alignment with what we see to be the core values of education. Questions will center around growth mindset, extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, the validity and reliability of grades, as well as the disparate effect of grades, toxic grading practices, and testing on disadvantaged communities. Check out this infographic below with the questions for this Sunday’s chat.

Sunday, July 2, 2017: Getting Started

First impressions are important. Here we spend some time discussing how to set up your gradeless classroom. Part of this involves communicating the rationales for going gradeless with colleagues and the communities we serve. We realize that some of us will be lone wolves in this, but no one teaches in a vacuum. More than anything, this chat will be teachers sharing how they have set the stage for going gradeless.

Sunday, July 9, 2017: Assessment and Feedback

In their review of feedback studies from 1905 and 1995, Kluger and DeNisi (cited in Wiliam, 2014) discovered that in 38% of studies, feedback made performance worse. This is bad news given how much time most of us devote to providing quality feedback. The good news is that we can do a lot better by going gradeless. The very act of providing descriptive comments without scores automatically enhances students’ chances of improvement. Another way we can improve assessment and feedback is by teaching students assess themselves and one another, empowering them to become “self-regulated learners” (Hattie, 2012).

Sunday, July 16, 2017: Portfolios and Conferences

In addition to empowering students to assess themselves and their peers, we can also involve them in the process of presenting and evaluating a portfolio of work, as well as assigning a term or semester grade where necessary. John Hattie (2012) demonstrated that, among hundreds of educational interventions studied, self-grading topped the list with the highest effect size. This chat will look at ways we can facilitate that process.

Sunday, July 23, 2017: Going Gradeless STEAM Chat

Going gradeless isn’t just for English teachers. In fact, STEAM teachers (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) testify that going gradeless allows students to experience their subject areas the way they were meant to be experienced: as rich, interconnected, contextualized disciplines. Although the topics explored in this chat center on going gradeless in STEAM courses, everyone is welcome. One goal of our group is to show how gradelessness can help us break down existing silos in education.

Sunday, July 30, 2017: Going Gradeless Humanities Chat

While we might think that the humanities have retained their richness in this age of standardization, grades, and tests, specious concerns about objectivity, accuracy, and reliability have found their way into our disciplines as well, pressuring us to limit education to what can be clearly prescribed and easily measured. As a result, we are already witnessing a phenomenon of students who do well in our classes and on tests but have little vision of what counts for deep thinking or good writing. This chat asks what the humanities can be without the false horizon of grades. As with the previous chat, teachers from all subjects are invited to share insight and expertise.

Sunday, August 6, 2017 and Sunday, August 13, 2017: Topic-specific Chats

Going gradeless can’t be an end in itself. How can the gradeless classroom provide the space to propose a more relevant, just, and humane vision of what school can be? In this chat, we examine how going gradeless allows teachers to better facilitate ideas like project-based learning, writers’ workshops, student-directed learning, genius hour, and critical pedagogy. As we get closer to these dates, we will make some choices about topics that would be of most interest to the group.

Sunday, August 20, 2017: Putting it All Together

Here we reconvene to discuss final insights, ideas, and concerns. We’ll make connections, share resources, and state our intentions for going gradeless — not just as a more effective approach to assessment, feedback, and reporting — but as a platform for a more equitable, emancipatory vision of schools. Although this vision can take many different forms, it will necessarily value the identities of the students we serve, challenging them, in the words of Gert Biesta (2005), to live responsibly “in a social and intersubjective world, a world we share with others who are not like us.”

Care to join us? Find us on Facebook and leave a comment below!

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