June 5, 2011

Please take this challenge: it can change everything

If you are a regular reader of this blog and my tweets, you know by now that I am in the midst of major reform in my classroom. I have transformed my class into what I call a Results Only Learning EnvironmentTM. A ROLE is a place that replaces all traditional teaching with progressive methods and narrative feedback over grades.

Accept this challenge
I am working on a book called, ROLE ReversalTM. The book is based on my own experience, and I'm looking for evidence of success of ROLE strategies in other classrooms. I need you to take this challenge, and transform your class into a ROLETM.

All you have to do is change your methods for one grading period. What this means is eliminating all, or at least some, of the traditional methods you may be using: homework, worksheets, rules and consequences, number and letter grades on activities and projects.

How is it done?
Start your school year by explaining to students that things will be different in your class from what they are used to. Tell them there's no homework (at least for the first grading period) and no grades. Explain that you want a class built on narrative feedback from you and from them. Tell students that they will have a chance to make changes to every activity, project or test, based on feedback they receive. End by really shocking them and telling them that at the end of the grading period you will either allow them to grade themselves (if you're really bold) or you will listen to their feedback about what their grade should be.

Need more info?
If you are interested in taking this challenge but need to learn more about how a ROLE works, either post a question in the comment section or contact me with specific questions here.


  1. When I was completing coursework toward my Masters degree I had a class very much like this. It was a very pleasant experience and I have many happy memories. As far as learning goes...in retrospect I would say it was no more or less as compared to other, more traditional classes.

  2. My experience is that learning in a Role is much more effective because it
    fans intrinsic motivation. Students want to learn because they're given
    choice and not punished by grades.

    Mark Barnes

  3. I am very interested in trying this in the new school year. As I am a Dutch teacher I´m not sure whether I could use your program, given the differences in the educational systems. Before I can decide if it has a chance of succeeding I will need more specifics on how it would actually function in practice. I will need to satisfy myself, and convince the parents, that it will not ´harm´ the education of my students. I do have a certain degree of freedom in my curriculum but I will also need to be able to explain my choices to my co-workers and superiors. So basically I´m asking for more details.

  4. Hi Frans, thanks for the interest. The key to creating a successful ROLE is to let go of as much traditional education as possible. If you can't dive in completely, you might start small. Try eliminating homework (if you give it). You might work on a creating a year-long project that can supplement what you might normally give for homework. For example, instead of assigning written homework, I have a Reading All Year project, which requires a minimum of 25 books read in various genres. So, I ask my students to read at home. It's not something I check or quiz them on daily, but it still creates responsibility, since they're working on a goal. The project parts that accompany the overall goal tell me how much and how well they're reading.

    Stop putting numbers and letters on assignments and projects, if possible. Instead, write brief, yet detailed, feedback on everything. Explain what students do well, what learning outcomes they've met and ask them to return and demonstrate mastery of anything they may have missed. Refer to the posts in the Feedback Toolkit series on this blog. There's much more to a ROLE, but these are a couple of the big ones.

    Please reply with any other questions you have. Be as specific as possible.