Creativity and Ken Robinson

“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”
~Sir Ken Robinson

Sir Ken Robinson is likely best known for a talk I heard at an education conference several years ago.  It has since been featured as a TED talk….  How Schools Kill Creativity.  Have a watch….

Since then, schools have been working hard to figure things out.  I am heartened by some of the stories I hear from schools around BC and all over the world.  The heart of it all?  Listen to the learner and guide their passion.  Take their lead.  They will create something special.

What Do Letter Grades Tell Us About Learning?

Earlier I said that letter grades don’t say much about learning.  Here’s one quick example to get you thinking about that.

A student takes a course and gets the following marks out of 10:

  • 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9 and one missing assignment
  • And then writes the final exam and gets 95%.
  • Assignments = 31/80       Exam = 95/100

Depending on how the teacher thinks about this, the student could get some very different final grades.

  • Some teachers would say that 126/180 is 70%    “C+”
  • Some teachers might put more weight on the exam and come up with a “B”
  • Some teachers might note the growth over time and the fact that the student had mastered the content for the exam – therefore 95%   “A”
  • Some teachers might note the missing assignment and say “incomplete” or “fail”

But what did the student learn?

Letter Grades on the Way Out

And it can’t happen soon enough.

I remember when I started as a Principal in the Gulf Islands many years ago.  We didn’t give letter grades then – right up to grade 8.  We kept a mark book.  Parents could have the letter grades if they wanted them.  We even gave them the option of a report card with no letter grades and a sealed envelope with the letter grades inside – so the parents had them but the students didn’t compare themselves.  Most parents opted to NOT receive letter grades for their kids.  They understood how little a percent or letter grade actually means and they felt like they understood their own child’s learning and progress.  It also allowed students to develop at different rates without comparing themselves to others with a number.

A few years later it was legislated that we MUST put letter grades on report cards.  That was tough.  Suddenly report cards became less meaningful for students.  All they looked at was the grade with no thought given to how that grade might have been generated.   Learning became less about learning and more about achieving – two different things.  And families became more focussed on the letter grade than on the learning.  I get that.  It’s all people know about how to measure learning.  Letter grades feel comfortable because we’ve seen them before in our own schooling.  But letter grades say almost nothing about learning.

Fast forward to now.  The BC Education Plan is sending us in a promising direction of personalization.  Letter grades become even LESS meaningful in a personalized education.  And some big districts in BC are experimenting with what we were doing years ago.  I am so hopeful about this change!  Now, how long until we figure out how to do this in the graduation program?

Surrey and Maple Ridge Schools Set to Rub Out Letter Grades