June 8, 2011

Dear Colleagues please think about this

Dear Colleagues,

After nearly 20 years of teaching, I made a remarkable change in my teaching this past year, and I'm hoping you'll consider this for your own class for next year.

Tired of blaming students for their poor grades and bad returns on standardized tests, I took a long, hard look in the mirror last summer and wondered if it was possible that my students' failures were actually mine. After reading the work of popular researchers and educators like Daniel Pink, Stephen Krashen and Alfie Kohn, I realized that things had to change, both in my own classroom and in education, in general.

ROLE Reversal
I created what I call a Results Only Learning Environment. A results-only class discards traditional methods, in favor of a more progressive way of teaching and learning. A ROLE gives the students freedom to choose how they learn. It makes learning fun by putting students in a workshop environment, giving them year-long projects and eliminating boring traditional teaching tools, such as homework, worksheets and tests and quizzes.

No rules and no grades
Perhaps the best part of the results-only classroom is the fact that rules and consequences are no longer needed, because students become so engaged in their own learning that they are not interested in being disruptive. In past years, I was constantly handing out ridiculous punishments like detentions, writing assignments and, worst of all, the ever-popular timeout (moving a student to an isolated spot away from peers). When I couldn't handle disruption, I simply sent the student away to our Student Management Room or to the principal. When I converted my room to a Results Only Learning Environment, all of these archaic consequences vanished. Imagine never disciplining a student again.

Also gone are grades. I never put a letter or a number on a student's activity or project. Instead, I supply narrative feedback -- detailed oral or written feedback about what skills were mastered and which need more work. In less than one grading period, my students stopped asking, "What's this worth?" or "Is this for points?" Instead, students started working for the value of learning. They valued my feedback and enthusiastically made changes to activities, when I asked for it.

When the grading period ended, and report card grades were mandated, my students evaluated their own performance and graded themselves. Numerous times, students graded themselves with "F's" and 90 percent of the time, students assigned the exact grade I would have.

Think about the unbelievable transformation that took place in my classroom.

Isn't at least some of it worth a try?