GRADING TO LEARN
Konrad Glogowski, an elementary-level language arts teacher in Canada, writes that he saw an unusual phenomenon in his class the other day that helped him corroborate his transformation as a teacher: His students were actually reading the comments he had written on the tests he passed back to them.
This wasn’t a coincidence or paranormal occurrence, he says, but the result of a change he has made in the way he responds to student work:
Why were they reading my comments? Why were they so involved? Well, after years of teaching and, what’s even more important, after two years of teaching within a classroom blogging community, I have finally learned to write comments. I stopped writing as someone who dispenses knowledge. I stopped writing as someone who cares only about syntax and organization and who has forgotten what it means to get lost in a good piece of writing. I stopped writing as someone who is reading to assign a grade. Instead, I started reading as someone who wants to learn, as someone who cares about ideas, as someone who wants to join a conversation.
Personally, I have never learned anything from my teachers’ checkmarks or their efforts to summarize my work in one banal phrase, such as “Excellent,” “Well done!,” or “Keep up the good work!” I do not expect my students to take my comments seriously if they suggest to them that their work can be summed up in “Great effort!” So, I have learned how to respond to student work by unlearning how to respond to student work. I have learned to abandon my teacher voice and started responding as a reader.