Friday, March 15, 2013

The Gray Area of Educational Grading Practices (Part 1)

The article The Problem with Black and White Thinking by Steven Handel got me to thinking of the flood of educational changes we are currently experiencing.  As a passionate high school educator with various leaderships roles I am constantly seeking positive ways to spark educational changes that are best for kids.  One of many current tasks at hand in our building is for each department to land on the same grading policies and grade book configuration. For my department this means 11 individuals must come to consensus.

While educational changes in practice, delivery and assessment are much needed, there is no set of black and white rules to answer the why's or to guide the how's of change.  So, where does this leave us? It leaves us in the "gray area".

For many, black and white thinking is a safety net of a known set of rules or values. For some, it's what we've always done, therefore, why change? For others, it's what they believe is best according to what they were once taught years ago.  Then, along comes 21st century teaching and suddenly we are asked to abandon certain practices in order to embrace new ones. 

We are inundated with new ways to grade and teach! From the greats like +Rick Wormeli and Robert Marzano teaching us Standards Based Grading to differentiated gurus and instructional experts such as Carol Ann Tomlinson and Jay McTighe!  Even brain-based researchers such as Carol Dweck challenge us to embrace new mindsets! And don't forget the new ways to utilize the tried and true Bloom's Taxonomy with The Rigor & Relevance Framework! Suddenly practices do not seem so black and white!

Individuals holding on to the old black and white rules will likely miss the tide of educational change.  However, those willing to let go and live in the "gray area" will discover endless opportunities to grow and change in order to better meet the needs of students.