Letter Grades Again…

b-school-letter-gradeLetter grades, and their value in learning, are being brought into question with increasing frequency.  You may recall that I am not a supporter of letter grades in our schools.  They are subjective and relatively meaningless.  And, worse, they take the focus away from LEARNING and put it on COMPARING.  Jordan Tinney, Superintendent/CEO of the largest school district in BC, has written a piece about letter grades – what do letter grades have to do with performance? He asks where, in the real world, are we ever evaluated with a percent and a letter grade. It’s worth a read!

What Do Letter Grades Have to Do With Performance?

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?

Flipped Classrooms

The concept of a flipped classroom is not new.  We’ve been talking about it for a few years now.  But there aren’t many teachers who have taken the leap – or should I say the flip….

Here’s the concept.  Traditionally kids go to school, the teacher stands in front of them and teaches, there may be some questions to answer while still in class, and then the kids go home to face their homework on their own.  It just doesn’t make sense.  The teacher is the best source of help there is – a subject matter expert.  So flippers do it the other way around.  The lesson is on a video and assigned for homework.  Class time is spent working individually on problem sets, projects and labs with the teacher helping individuals and small groups who need the help.  The added advantage is that parents can also watch the lesson so they can help their own child more confidently.

Graham Johnson, aka Math Johnson, has flipped his Math classes.  His blog – flipping math – is a great read.  It’s well worth scrolling back and following his journey.


School in the Cloud

Education is in a very exciting time of change.  And it’s about time.  The world works and thinks different than it did when I was wee.  School needs to prepare our youth for today’s world.

School in the Cloud is a “Self Organized Learning Environment” (SOLE) where students have control over what they learn and how they learn it.  The concept belongs to Sugata Mitra and is inspired by his experience of watching children in India interact with an internet hole-in-the-wall.  It centers around children’s innate curiosity.  Love it!

TED:  Build a School in the Cloud

The first official SOLE based School in the Cloud has been opened in the UK and it’s exciting to follow its progress.

TED blog:  First School in the Cloud Opens in the UK

I’ll be watching for more about this concept over the coming months.  It’s heading in the right direction.