Human Restoration Project

Share

47: Redefining Assessment by Implementing Gradeless Learning feat. Jeffery Frieden, Aaron Blackwelder, & Nick Covington

Ep. 47

On today's podcast, we're looking at the gradeless movement. There's a lot to be debated in the education system, but I'm hard-pressed to find a topic so steeped in research as this one. Whether it be motivation, willingness to learn, and even traditional test scores, not giving a grade shows improvement across the board.

There's countless research articles, books, podcasts, psychologists, education experts, and more writing and studying the effects of grades. And every single time, whether it be 1850 or 2019, it seems to support the same outcome:

  1. Grades diminish motivation and do little to actually provide feedback for students to improve.
  2. If there is research that supports grades, it's stating that they improve standardized test scores, not necessarily motivate or improve student outcomes.

I challenge you to find data that supports otherwise. I say that not out of spite for those who disagree with the practice, but because I'm genuinely curious if there is any. This appears to be one of these things that's "common sense."

People have thought this way for awhile, even back in Dewey and Thorndike's time. Ironically, grades were intentionally brought into schools as a way to show student growth overtime - a way to open up dialogue between teacher and student - but they've done the exact opposite. Essentially, grades are a shortcut that communicates pass or failure, with many students seeing anything under an A as "failure." And those at the bottom, who receive an "F", are pushed out of our schools - rank and filed to be the "losers" of the education system.

But there's a lot of barriers to best practice, and going gradeless isn't easy. Many districts have gradebook requirements, whether that be simply just giving a kid a grade or even requiring a grade per week. And therefore, many don't even attempt "the impossible." I'm here (with our guests) to show that it is possible! There are educators throughout the world "going gradeless" even in traditional systems. Of course there are various degrees of making this happen, but going as far as possible within one's district for the benefit of their students is worthwhile.

GUESTS IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE

Jeffery Frieden, an English educator at Hillcrest High School in Corona, California, and founder of Make Them Master It, an organization aimed at connecting teachers to mastery-based practice and identifying teacher struggle through a podcast, book, and blogs.

Aaron Blackwelder, an English educator in Woodland Public Schools in Woodland, Washington, and founder of Teachers Going Gradeless, an organization aimed at providing resources and connecting educators who diminish or eliminate the use of extrinsic motivators.

Nick Covington, a Social Studies educator at Ankeny High School in Ankeny, Iowa, who promotes progressive education in his own practice including developing portfolio-based gradeless assessments.

RESOURCES

FURTHER LISTENING

More Episodes

5/28/2022

112: Keep Hope Alive w/ Deborah Meier

Ep. 112
Today’s guest is Deborah Meier, who really needs no introduction for advocates of progressive education. Meier is the founder of the modern small schools movement, that aims to reorganize larger schools into smaller, democratic ones. She was founder and director of Central Park East, a Dewey-inspired progressive school in East Harlem, New York City. She also opened Central Park East II, River East, and the Central Park East Secondary School the same neighborhood. This led her to establish a network of similarly minded schools in New York City, and eventually founding Mission Hill School in Boston.Meier is an advocate of democratic, progressive, public schools who has served on the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, National Academy of Education, The Nation, Dissent, and more. She is a recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship, as well as the author of multiple books including the recently co-authored These Schools Belong to You and Me: Why We Can’t Afford to Abandon our Public Schools. Meier is a huge inspiration to us at Human Restoration Project and we frequently draw on her work in our materials and advocacy.In this podcast, Meier and I talk about building a coalition of schools, educators, families, and community members to build and protect a progressive public education, discussing the importance of building a public education system that strengthens and models a democracy.GUESTSDeborah Meier, founding director of Central Park East and Mission Hill School, as well as various progressive democratic public schools, and author of various works including co-authoring These Schools Belong to You and Me: Why We Can’t Afford to Abandon our Public SchoolsRESOURCESDeborah Meier's websiteThese Schools Belong to You and Me: Why We Can’t Afford to Abandon our Public SchoolsThe Power of Their Ideas: Lessons for America from a Small School in HarlemSUPPORT THE MOVEMENT TO END GUN VIOLENCEMarch for Our Lives 2022 National Rally (June 11th, 2022)Donate: March for Our LivesDonate: EverytownDonate: Moms Demand ActionDonate: Sandy Hook PromiseDonate: GoFundMe - Uvalde, TexasDonate: GoFundMe - Buffalo, New York
5/14/2022

111: Building the Modern Progressive Education Movement w/ David Buck

Ep. 111
On today’s podcast we are joined by David Buck. David is an English professor at Howard Community College in Maryland who is actively involved in the ungrading movement, as well as focusing on open access resources, open pedagogy, and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. To foster and grow the practice of ungrading, David is actively involved in utilizing social and other online media for discussion, including but not limited to his “Let’s Talk Ungrading” Twitter Spaces, which is also an edited podcast, the Ungrading Twitter Community, the Ungrading Book Club, the Ungrading Discord Community, and “Crowdsourcing Ungrading” an open-access book on Pressbooks.We talk about:The desire and need for more spaces to gather and reflect on progressive education.What it means to build these spaces in "new media", such as Discord or Twitter Spaces.How we can get more young people involved in joining, curating, and creating these spaces (such as on Twitch).How we can inspire more educators to lead and grow these spaces, co-created with students.GUESTSDavid Buck, English professor at Howard Community College and mass-curator and co-leader of various ungrading spacesRESOURCES#Ungrading: A Digital Ethnography (Dissertation by Christina Moore)David Buck's Twitter (and location for Twitter Spaces)Crowdsourced Ungrading PressbookDavid Buck's Sutori Student BlogsUngrading HUB (Discord)Human Restoration Project (Discord)