Resources & Prompts for the #TxEduChat on “Learning Beyond Letter Grades”

I’m excited to guest host the #TxEduChat tonight at 8:00 PM CST (2/15/15) on the topic of “Learning Beyond Letter Grades.” For those who are participating, I’ve put together a collection of articles that I’ve written on related topics and included them below. I also listed the discussion prompts below, just in case a few people wanted a peek preview.

Where did I get this topic? I’ve been fascinated with educational innovation, student-centered learning environments, and alternative education for two decades. However, over the last several years, I started to notice that grading systems, testing, and assessment practices often seemed to get in the way of many promising innovations. So, I started to look into the subject further. I studied the history of letter grades to find out how we got this system in the first place. I was amazed at what I discovered. Then I started looking at many alternatives to letter grades along with ways to supplement, bolster or enhance the existing system. That eventually led me to sharing some of my discoveries in 2013.

I led a Massive Open Online Course on the subject in 2013 where we explored the limitations of letter grades, the important role of formative versus summative assessment, narrative feedback, peer assessment, self-assessment, competency-based education, digital badges for learning and more. It was a wonderfully engaging learning community of around 1000 participants from  more than a dozen countries. It included k12 educators, University faculty, school and University administrators, instructional designers, along with leaders and innovators in education startups, non-profit organizations, and successful education companies. I’m happy to be offering that MOOC again this spring. While all are welcome, it will have a bit more of a higher education focus this time around. I hope to able to soon announce an exciting potential partnership with a well-known organization for Learning Beyond Letter Grades 2.0.

The purpose of the course was to challenge us to consider the possible of learning beyond letter grades. We explored what it might look like for schools to be less driven by a culture of earning [grades] and more focused upon a genuine culture of learning. Is it possible, I suggested, that the letter grade system is outdated, and that there are worthwhile alternatives today? Or, even if we don’t set aside letter grades, might these alternatives serve as valuable supplements and enhancements to how we think about and use feedback and the documentation of student learning? This is what I mean by learning beyond letter grades. I’m looking forward to what I hope an expect to be a lively and rewarding chat!

Tentative Prompts / Questions for the #TxEduChat Twitter Chat at 8:00 PM CST on 2/15/15

  • Q1 What role do letter grades currently play in your classroom/school? Good, bad, neutral? #txeduchat
  • Q2 What are the strongest arguments for or against the role of letter grades in school? #txeduchatPossible
    • Q2 sub-prompts to keep things lively.
      • Q2.1 Letter grades keep the unmotivated students motivated? Good or bad argument? #txeduchat
      • Q2.2 Letter grades prepare students for the “real world” Good or bad argument? #txeduchat
      • Q2.3 The next level of education uses grades, so we need to do it too. Good or bad argument?
  • Q3 To what extent might letter grades be an outdated 17th century technology? #txeduchat
  • Q4 Not that all our schools will abandon grades, but what alternatives have you explored? What are their benefits/limitations? #txeduchat
    • Possible Q4 sub-prompts to keep things lively.Q4.1.
      • Thoughts about these options? standards-based, #gamification, #openbadges, #cbe #txeduchatQ4.2
      • Thoughts about these options? #portfolios, self-assessment, peer-assessment. #txeduchat
  • Q5 How might some of the A4 alternatives enhance or supplement (not replace) the use of letter grades in your classroom/school? #txeduchat
  • Q6 Grades are more summative. What are creative ways for students to get more formative “How am I doing?” feedback? #txeduchat
  • Q7 Regardless of letter grades, what can we do to foster a culture of learning more than a culture of earning grades? #txeduchat
  • Q8 Final Question: As a result of this chat, what is one thing that you want to do or explore within the next week? #TxEduChat

Related Articles from Etale That Might be of Interest

 Shameless Plug: Did I mention that I work at Concordia University Wisconsin where we offer a fully online Master of Science in Educational Design and Technology that is built around competency-based digital badges? You can learn more or inquire here.