I love schools. But my friends and colleagues know they can easily get me on a rant about how broken the education system is: over-emphasizing standardized tests and grades, providing unequal education based on socioeconomic status, not thinking about what students really need long-term, letting decisions be made by politicians or based on tradition.
After reading the first half of James Paul Gee’s book “The Anti-Education Era”, I am sure he would join in on my rants. But he would also agree with me that even though they are flawed, schools are valuable institutions. I found his insights into human thought and action very helpful as I considered the struggle my school is facing as we re-evaluate our grading practices.
Gee explains that when a group of people form an institution, they have to create policies that “freeze thought” about certain issues in order to make the institution function properly and to make it easier for the people involved to function. For a long time, schools have followed a “frozen” grading structure based on the 0-100% and A to F scales.
But as schools and society have changed, and as we have learned about what really motivates learners, it seems that grading practices might need to be changed.
How can a school overcome frozen thinking about grading and rally individuals around the institutional goal of assessing student learning consistently and effectively? I don’t have the definitive answer, but in this white paper, I examine how Gee’s claims can shed light on the grading problems in my school. If you read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts!