A Letter for Colleges: What If Your Students Were Learners First?

Ran across this on the intertubes this morning at Joe Bower’s blog. It’s a model ‘letter’ a grade free school could use to send to colleges on behalf of its students, written by Alfie Kohn.

I’ll just quote a part:

Students in other schools spend much of their time and mental effort keeping track of their grade-point averages, figuring out what is required for an A and then doing only that and no more. At ___________, that time and energy are devoted exclusively to encountering great ideas and great literature, using the scientific method, thinking like an historian or a mathematician, and learning to speak and write with precision.

I dream of being able to send this letter for my students, and of being able to give them this kind of education. We’re getting there, but we aren’t there yet.

This letter, and the ideas in it, just highlight the fact that grades, and many other things we do at school, have absolutely nothing to do with learning. At one end, grades are a form of control, and at the other, they have become a currency for students that can be exchanged for college admission (and as a valuable form of currency, still very much a form of control). But, they are an inadequate means of recording a students learning and growth.

Either way, the sorting of students by grading them has no benefits for the students, but only benefits outside interests. If colleges were really interested in students as learners, maybe I wouldn’t have to dream about sending this letter. Maybe they would stop asking for grades and start asking for something more substantial. But I’m not holding my breath.

You can find the rest of the letter, as well as a lot of thinking about school at Kohn’s website, which is linked below.

A Letter for Colleges.

This entry was posted in 21st century teaching and learning, cultivating real learning, grading and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply