August 18, 2013

Answering questions about the ROLE

In a detailed, thoughtful reaction to Role Reversal, my Twitter friend, Aviva Dunsiger, wonders about a few important concepts in results-only learning. Rather than leave a lengthy comment on her blog, I decided to respond in a post of my own. I've taken some of Aviva's questions and paraphrased them below with my answer. I hope this helps.

How is a student with autism successful in a ROLE?

I taught a few students with Asperger syndrome; they didn't struggle with the noise and disruption as much as others might. What made the ROLE successful for these students is the freedom. For example, when we were completing research, one student wanted to do a PowerPoint project, rather than a formal paper. In the past, I would have never allowed this departure from tradition. As a ROLE teacher, I said, "Why not?" He did a fantastic project, complete with proper citations and a Works Cited section.

Is there a way to give students autonomy while also communicating student performance regularly to parents? 

The best way to communicate is with your online grading program, using the comment feature, or on your classroom website, complete with student blogs and private web pages. Parents were always in the loop, because I put everything on our classroom website.

Why would teachers want to eliminate guided reading?

Aviva suggests some small-group "guided reading" strategies, but I think we differ on the meaning of the phrase. My top 5 reasons for eliminating guided reading are here.

What about the one student who is insistent on getting a report card grade of A, when she deserved a C?

In this section of her blog, Aviva says:
"Grades may not be as important as feedback, but they do give parents an impression of student achievement and next year’s teacher an impression of student achievement too."
I will respectfully disagree with her here. As I contend in Role Reversal, grades say absolutely nothing about performance. They are misleading and unfair. When my children come home with report cards filled with A's, I don't say, "Good job!" I ask them what they learned over the course of two months. "Are you satisfied with your accomplishments? Of what are you most proud? Where did you fail?" No letter can answer these questions. So, to answer the larger question, if a student insists on an A, I'll give it to her. It's never happened more than a few times.

What about homework?

I have written widely on homework and have a new HW post coming in the near future. Meanwhile, here is my most-viewed post on the subject.

Thanks again to Aviva for her passionate critique of Role Reversal. Feel free to add to her work.

Don't miss Mark's book ROLE Reversal: Achieving Uncommonly Excellent Results in the Student-Centered Classroom, now available in the ASCD store, Barnes & Noble and at

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