Digital Disruption: A speech about finding our Hipster Hulk balance

The following is the speech I delivered at the Delivery for Citizens conference on 6th November, 2019. It was a privilege to be invited to speak as the representative of public education on the Digital Disruption panel. Thank you to my ex-students who inspired the content of this speech. 

One decade ago, public schools experienced the biggest digital disruption to date – the Digital Education Revolution. I can honestly say that I am a better educator because of it, however, many teachers did not respond the way I did, and I think that shows today in the somewhat polarised nature of public schooling. So what characterises this dichotomy? Allow me to indulge in an analogy inspired by the MCU, as a way of explanation. You’re all familiar with Bruce Banner and his alter-ego, the Incredible Hulk, right? The classic split-personality archetype. I see school today in this way.

On one hand, you have a culture of compliance and anxiety, where students and teachers see schooling as essentially a series of PPT presentations and assessment tasks all leading to the grand finale – the HSC. Much like physicist Banner when he first meets the Avengers, many teachers are confident in their role as content experts and are eager to impart their knowledge to ensure their students have what it takes to pass the tests.

On the other hand, there are increasing numbers of teachers who have more Hulk-like tendencies. Their frustration with an outdated system of education sees them entering Hulk Smash Mode – tearing down literal classroom walls and metaphorical barriers between subjects. These educators can be seen as disruptive and dangerous because they challenge the very purpose of schooling through their refusal to be cowed before the HSC and NAPLAN.

So, what do our students today make of this professional and ideological conflict taking place within their schools? Well, my experience is that they are finding it pretty difficult. They are essentially receiving two messages – make sure you get top marks in all exams otherwise you’ll fail to get into university, but also be ready for an uncertain future where university degrees won’t guarantee you a job.

At my school, we have resisted the urge to fully unleash the Hulk. I’ll admit that this has been hard for me because – as you can see from my choice of outfit today – I tend more towards the big green guy than his bespectacled brother. Despite our restraint, we have not shied away from much needed pedagogical shifts. For over a decade our year 10 students have completed an Independent Learning Project, devoting three terms of intense focus on a passion project which allow them to think and work as designers, entrepreneurs, researchers, artists, or subject experts. In 2016 I introduced another course – this time for year 7. We call it Praxis. As a philosophy major, praxis is one of my favourite words. For us, praxis means to put theory into practice. Nothing could be more important for our young people. They design games to meet the needs of community users, such as the elderly or new migrants. They work together as journalists to source and write stories for a school newspaper. Finally, they plan and run a conference for local year 5 students. This course, like ILP develops those very human and very transferable skills – critical thinking, creativity, problem-solving, and collaboration. Much of the work in Praxis requires students to collaborate digitally using a range of devices, but they also spend time ideating with pen and paper, and coordinating timelines using whiteboards and markers. We remind them of the value of a blended approach – humans driving the devices, not the other way around.

If students are experiencing this conflict in school between the anxious conservatism of Bruce Banner and the unrestrained disruption of Hulk, how does this affect their expectations about the world of work? Well, I think this calls for a third layer to my analogy – Hipster Hulk. Well, if you’ve seen Marvel’s End Game, you’ll know what I mean. If not, I pity your lack of culture! Hipster Hulk is the centre of the Hulk/Banner gyre. He is the Byzantium mid-point which sees a perfect balance of Banner’s brains and Hulk’s brawn. He is the best analogy for what our young people are looking for in their future workplaces, and, quite unexpectedly, I think, that the public sector might actually be Hipster Hulk. Confused? OK, let me elaborate.

When I ask my current students what they hope for in a workplace, they describe somewhere like Google, or, to be more patriotic, somewhere like Atlassian. They imagine open office spaces, unlimited technology, free food and massages, flexible working hours and overseas travel. They dream of creative freedom, a collaborative and fun work environment where they can be their best and make a difference. They also don’t want to wear suits! Using my analogy, this is a Hulk image of future work – smashing down the traditional expectations of work and the workplace. However, when I speak to my ex-students now in their 20s, their requests are much more restrained. They’d love all those things listed by my younger students, but they are primarily concerned about job security, about wage theft, about salary transparency, paternity leave, the casualisation of the workforce, and most worryingly, about being respected by their older colleagues. Most of them are university graduates yet all are finding it hard to get a full-time job in the industry of their preference.

They are learning the hard truth about work in the 21st century – that it doesn’t seem to pay very well, and that your mental and physical wellbeing can be comprised by the unrealistic expectations of employers. They want to be taken care of by their employers, not taken advantage of. To labour my analogy this is NOT the workplace of Hulk. But it’s not the workplace of Banner, either, even though there are hints of traditional employee concerns. This vision of the ideal contemporary workplace is a balance of both – it is Hipster Hulk.

If the public sector wants to attract the best talent to its workforce, those intelligent, creative and passionate young people who really can transform the world for the better, then you need to genuinely shape a workplace that caters for their needs and expectations. You need to become Hipster Hulk. Listening to Stephanie talk about the Transport Accelerator – a process that embraces creative problem-solving using strategies very much like those which we use in year 7 Praxis and year 10 ILP – I’m feeling pretty amped about going back to school and promoting the public sector as a workplace. But I guess it’s up to you guys now to make sure that I’m not leading my students astray.

Thank you.

Using debating and Socratic Seminars to improve my students’ critical thinking

I’m currently teaching Henry IV: Part 1 to my year 12 Advanced English class for Critical Study of Literature. Like many teachers, I approach this module through the Frames, taken from the Visual Arts syllabus. The four frames are subjective (personal response), cultural (contextual factors that shape the text), structural (close reading and textual analysis), and critical/postmodern (considering a wide range of perspectives of the text). We end this process with what we call Subjective 2.0 – the students going back to their original subjective response to the play and revising it based on their experience of the other three frames. The goal is for them to have an informed, personal response to the text.

Right now my class and I are up to our necks in the critical frame! I’ve used a couple of strategies to help my students engage deeply with a range of interpretations of the play in order to inform their own response. As you can tell from the title of this post, they were debating and Socratic Seminars.

Debating:

The first thing I did was deliver a presentation on literary theory. This gave students an overview of new criticism, reader response, new historicism, feminism and Marxism. Don’t panic English teachers! I know, and they know, that they will not be writing a series of paragraphs on these in their HSC essay! I marked Mod B Advanced for many years at the Marking Centre, so I know what not to do with this module. My students really were interested in these different lenses that can be adopted when responding to the play, and could all appreciate that even though we hadn’t named them, we had considered them all (to certain degrees) during our close reading of the play. After that presentation, I wrote up on the board the two debates to be held the next lesson, and they chose which theories they wanted to represent. See the image below for my the two debate topics and (ugly) outline of how the debates would be structured.

Screen Shot 2019-06-21 at 8.12.14 am

I actually didn’t adjudicate the debates myself, I gave that role to a student who has somewhat disengaged from completing class tasks but who I know if very insightful and an excellent judge of arguments. He took his role very seriously, and even came up with some guidelines for the debate and his own scoring system. The class were really surprised with his very effective adjudicating style, and equally surprised by the outcomes of the two debates! I took notes throughout the debates – the kids had so much to say! I’m going to type them up this weekend and pop them up on our class Google Drive.

Socratic Seminars:

Now, a week or two ago someone on Twitter shared a link to the ACSA PDF on Socratic Seminars… I can’t remember who, but thank you! I used this, plus the new rules for Philosothon Communities of Inquiry, to design the Socratic Seminar process for my students. The first thing I did was put my students into teams based on ability (this was determined by assessment marks and my knowledge of each student) and allocated each team an academic reading on Henry IV: Part 1. Students were then asked to read the article (highlight and annotate as they go) and then come up with one inquiry question they wanted to discuss with their team. You can see the name of one of the articles and the student inquiry questions below:

Screen Shot 2019-06-21 at 8.11.12 am

The process that we used for each Socratic Seminar is outlined below, as modified from the ACSA document and the Philosothon COI structure:

Screen Shot 2019-06-21 at 7.51.02 pm

I guess it’s a testament to my kids, or the culture of our class, but every student read their texts and showed up prepared to discuss it with their peers. I was like BEYOND proud of that fact! Those articles were DAMN HARD and they just did it… not only that, but their responses were STUNNING! Oh, I also forgot to say that each student had to add a five point summary of the article plus their three favourite quotes to a Google Doc in our Team Drive – they did this well too! See one of my student’s summaries below:

Screen Shot 2019-06-21 at 8.10.18 am

OK, so during the actual Socratic Seminar I assessed the students using a marking criteria that I found online and modified. I’m SO bad cos I can’t remember the original source. I’ll try to track it down, anyway, here is the modified PDF version (SOCRATIC SEMINAR MARKING CRITERIA (1))  if you wanna use it – it includes the teacher rubric, the peer-assessment sheet and the self-assessment sheet. I also had the outer circle students take notes on a collaborative Google Doc, recording the interesting points raised by each student. This was important as it made sure the students not in the dialogue were actively listening, and also provides an excellent source of ideas for extended responses when we prepare for the HSC exam! See below for an example of some of the notes the outer circle took.

Screen Shot 2019-06-21 at 8.10.10 am

I really enjoyed these learning activities as they allowed me to really see what my students know, and allowed them to share their knowledge with their peers. The focus was 100% on them, which makes a nice change too! The final stage of this activity is the reflection on the critical frame, which will be done in a collaborative document – see below (they’ve not done it yet, but I’m eager to see what they write!):

Screen Shot 2019-06-21 at 8.10.30 am

I’ll keep you posted, but I have already had a student tell me that he much prefers our study of Henry IV: Part 1 to his study of Macbeth in year 10 as it’s allowed him to appreciate Shakespeare more. That’s a win in my books! ❤

An efficient process for giving feedback on extended responses (with pictures!)

I’ve been using a pretty efficient system of feedback for a few years now. It takes some time to teach your students, but once you’re all on the same page (pardon the pun) it makes giving feedback on students’ written work so much more efficient. I’ve pretty much outlined this in another recent blog post about peer feedback, you can read it here, but thought I’d go through it again with pictures I recently shared on Twitter. This process outlined is for a pile of 30 comparative essays written by my year 8 students under exam-style conditions (gosh, I’m so innovative!) as part of our Documenting Life project. This project requires students to create a 60 second documentary about a local issue, and in order to learn how to create an effective documentary they view and analyse two full length documentaries – He Named Me Malala and Before the Flood. During the viewing of the doco they were asked to take notes on WHAT the documentary was about (ideas communicated) and HOW the documentary communicated ideas (devices used to shaped meaning). After we finished He Named Me Malala I had the students write a timed response (by hand – gasp!) to the question ‘What makes He Named Me Malala a powerful documentary?’ I then gave feedback on this using my coding system – identifying medals and missions throughout the written response using a tick and a code for something done well, and a question mark and a code for something that needs improvement. At the end I listed their overall main medals and missions. When I handed it back, I explained what the codes meant and had students write up their medals and missions in a team Google Document. This helps me identify trends and know what to target for the next piece.

Screen Shot 2019-06-20 at 6.40.25 am

As you can see from the table above, a lot could identify devices used in the doco, but didn’t discuss ideas, analyse how a device affected the viewer, or give an example of its use. They also didn’t use a complex and succinct sentence structure.  After they watched Before the Flood, I had them write another timed response, their question this time was ‘What makes Before the Flood a powerful documentary?’. I used the same process for feedback as last time. You can see their results below.

Screen Shot 2019-06-20 at 6.40.02 am

You can see a bit of an improvement – maybe it’s not obvious with these students above, but I noticed that they were making more of an effort to ensure they had a balance between ideas and devices, and that they evidenced their points. I also added more codes! Now that we had watched both docos, it was time for a comparative paragraph.  I used their eagerness to turn their missions into medals (‘Ms, what do you mean by ‘sentence structure’, can’t you teach us?’) as the prompt teaching them explicitly (what, but she’s an inquiry teacher?!) how to write this type of analytical response. I showed them the essential elements of a strong analytical sentence written under timed conditions (where being succinct is essential), and deconstructed an example. I gave them a scaffold and some prompting questions, as well as some vocabulary they could use (terms related to docos, and strong verbs to use when introducing the effect of a device). I gave them an overview of what their paragraph should include (right down to the number of sentences – so prescriptive, but their freedom comes in what they say about the texts, and their word choice). Then I made them write it last period on a Friday, haha!

Here are my expectations for the paragraph:

Screen Shot 2019-06-20 at 6.56.37 am

So, by the end of that Friday afternoon, I had 30 comparative paragraphs to mark. Lucky me! Well, it was lucky for me that I had used a bit of a mastery learning process and taught the kids my coding system because it meant giving feedback would be super efficient! Below is a brief summary of my process (as I posted it to Twitter on Sunday).

  1. Ensure you have the tools you need – for me that’s a nice bright coloured pen, sometimes a texta and sometimes just a bright green gel pen!

1

2. Write up the list of codes you will be using – I often add to this as a go because sometimes I make up new codes (rarely) and sometimes I realise I needed one that I didn’t expect.

3

3. Work your way through the piece of writing as you normally would when giving feedback. Instead of just giving ticks and writing notes, just add the codes. If a students has done something well give it a tick and add the appropriate code. For example, if they have used a complex word, add a tick and the letter V. If they need to improve something (like their sentence structure) I either underline where the issue is (if it’s more than one word) or just put the code near it and add a question mark.

4

4. Sometimes I add a question to an aspect of their work to get them to think more deeply about what they were trying to say. Like, if they just vaguely say ‘making the audience think deeply about the issue’ I might say ‘What issue?’ or ‘Think what exactly?’. I don’t like to correct mistakes, just highlight them as students should be doing more work with this than me.

6

5. At the end I give them a summary of their medals and missions. I never give more missions than medals, and I try to balance them if the student appears to need a lot of help with their writing. I give lots of medals if they’ve achieved them – they really like that!

57

6. I give back their medals and missions – and get them to list them up on the class Google Doc… oh, and I gave year 8 M&Ms (get it, medals and missions = M&Ms?) too!

8

In the image below you can see how my students improved their writing. I can look at individual students, and see what their areas of strength and weakness are as writers in this form. I can also identify class trends – we still need to work on sentence structure (what I expected is very high level, my year 12 students do it, and they know they will keep working at it in future projects). I can see that vocabulary is something to keep working on as well, and that has led me to choose to have students read some classic literature next term alongside out poetry study. Overall, I’m stoked with how this process went, and can see a massive improvement in my students’ writing AND more importantly, their confidence as writers!

Screen Shot 2019-06-20 at 6.38.45 am

Bell-work becomes ‘CrossWrit’ by Smed!

So, my last blog post has proven to be pretty popular! I guess we all struggle with the same problems – not enough time for students to write AND get through the content, plus some ‘dead time’ at the beginning of each lesson. I’m really stoked that so many teachers are embracing the idea of bell-work (or whatever each person chooses to call it), and my experience with my students this term has been awesome. I definitely have a stronger picture of each of them as writers now, and we have only done four tasks from the thirty I have created! I’ll write a post about my coding system to make marking super quick soon.

Obviously we aren’t all doing the same texts, and this has meant that teachers have had to modify the tasks to suit their students. One such awesome human is Matt Smedley – Smed on Twitter – who emailed me through the updated document he created for his kids, and was quite happy for it to be shared here with you all! I also love that he has called his activity ‘CrossWrit’- rhyming with CrossFit! Bet the kids think that’s pretty hilarious. I’m sure Matt has been stretching that analogy nicely with the kids as well, considering CrossFit is all about short bursts of high intensity activity done at regular intervals – so clever!

Anyway, if you want a copy of the document generously shared by Matt, you can download it here: CrossWrit! Thanks Matt, you rock! 😀 

Bell work: ensuring students write every lesson

TERM 2 BELL WORK

This term I am going to be trialling bell work with my year 12 Advanced class to ensure they are writing something substantial under timed conditions every lesson. I actually thought the term ‘bell work’ was pretty common, but seems like it’s not given the response on Twitter. Below is the definition and process I will be giving to my students:

TERM 2 BELL WORK (1)

Basically, students will work on these mini writing tasks whilst I mark the role and log in to GSuite… just getting myself organised for the lesson. This time is usually just wasted as kids saunter in, chat to each other, muck around on their laptops and phones. I have had great success with my juniors reading quietly for the first 10 minutes of each lesson, and I wanted something similar to settle and focus year 12. I decided writing would be best because they need to master how to write in so many different ways under exam conditions for this new HSC, and really there isn’t much time for that. I also was inspired by Will Kostakis who once told me about his year 12 English teacher who made his class do 5 minutes of writing to start each lesson. I’m going with 10 minutes because it means we can practise short answer questions for Common Module worth up to 4 marks.

Below is a sample of what the slides look like.

TERM 2 BELL WORK (2)

I have made sure that all types of writing are covered (persuasive, analytical, discursive and imaginative) as well as all modules and texts. It took me about four hours to come up with the tasks, and some I adapted from the sample NESA papers and other websites.

If you want a copy, just click here [TERM 2 BELL WORK] and you can download the PDF version. It will probably need modifying as it’s unlikely you’ll be doing the same texts as me for the Advanced course: 1984, Donne and W;t, Henry IV. I’ll get back to you with how it goes!

BELL

 

Want a copy of my new book?

If you didn’t already know, I spend some of my time writing education books (mostly for Pascal Press and Hawker Brownlow Education) and materials (mostly for SBS). I really do love writing (that’s why I’ve started blogging again) and since it’s unlikely that I’ll ever publish a novel, education writing gives me an outlet. Last year saw me tied to my desk most mornings before school, on weekends and during the holidays. Why? I was (re)writing the Standard English Excel guide. I have been writing this book since 2007. This book (well, the first iteration) was my very first education book – I had sent off some sample writing to as many publishers as I could think of in mid 2007, and when Excel got back to me requesting I write a couple of chapters for their upcoming book, I wrote like a mad woman and had the first draft ready way before the deadline. They were impressed, and I ended up co-authoring the book, writing almost half of the content. When it came to update the book a few years later (new HSC prescriptions), I was the sole author and ploughed away into the night to get the book written. Back then I was younger and could stay up late. This time around I was working whilst the sun was rising.

Anyway, it turns out that not only am I sole author of the Standard Guide, but I am also co-author of the Advanced Guide, given that I wrote on every text for the Common Module, which accounts for almost a third of the book’s content. I always write more than I am meant to for these books, and my publishers freak out about the page count. I guess I just really enjoy analysing and writing about literature. Look, I know it’s not academic level stuff, but writing these books over the years has been (I can say now that my mental health is back) quite enjoyable. Reading through the book (just flicking, I’m not that egocentric), I actually can’t remember writing most of it, and it feels like something someone else has written it. When you’re working 12 hour days and trying desperately to make a deadline, you sort of go into autopilot mode. (Skip to end if you’re over my ‘Hey, I’m a writer’ ramblings and just want a free copy of my Standard Guide, lol).

So why am I writing this post? Well, earlier this term I received my author copies of these two new books. There really isn’t anything like opening a box of books you’ve written. Books smell lovely to me at the best of times, but the smell of these ones was like nothing I can explain. They smelt like time. Haha. So, as it goes, yesterday one of my favourite colleagues left (he got a HT job) and I was contemplating giving him a copy of my latest PBL book – it’s for English teachers and he’s a PE teacher, but I thought it could help him make friends with the English teachers at his new school (swap little old me for a new English-teacher friend, haha). I quickly realised that was a dumb idea (too embarrassing to give your own book as a present), but it made me think about the different books I have written since my first one was published in 2009. I thought I had written ten, but I don’t have a list anywhere, and I can only find eight books online, so it must be eight. I know they all felt pretty brutal to write (all my writer friends, or those who have written theses, will know what I mean), but I’m super proud of them all, and all for different reasons.

The NAPLAN ones I am sort of embarrassed by (since I don’t agree with how NAPLAN data has been used) but I did try really hard to include source texts that would challenge the ways students saw the world (and I maybe added my family members’ names throughout the questions). Writing those books was torture, and I won’t be doing it again.

The Writing and Spelling books are the ones that I think get the least credit for what they are – I poured my heart into those books, hoping that they would help young writers improve their craft. I worked with the formidable Kristine Brown (her little 7-10 English Guide was like a bible for me as a new English teacher), as my books were to replace/update her very successful series of writing guides. I don’t think they are very popular, and that makes me sad, because I think they would pair so well with high quality English PBL. I’m going to use them with my year 8s next term, so might report back on that.

Then there are my PBL books, which probably took even longer to write than my Excel HSC guides because I was a total perfectionist about what I was putting in, and how I wanted it all to be set out. I went through two publishers to get to where they are now – they had to be ‘just’ right. I’m excited to be working on the primary school books with Lee this year, and really hope that I can focus and get those three published in the next 18 months. We have had such wonderful feedback from teachers telling us how the books have helped guide them with an unfamiliar pedagogy… and that’s why I write, to help people!

Screen Shot 2019-04-13 at 1.18.32 pm

As I was going through my bookshelves, looking for a copy of the 7-8 PBL book for James, I noticed I have a pile of my new Standard Excel Guides just sitting around. They’re a bit useless to me, as unfortunately I don’t get to teach Standard English as my current school. I figure that a teacher in a rural or remote school might find a copy useful. So if that’s you, and you think your students could use this book, post me a comment below telling me where you’re at and a little about your kids. I’ll get one of my son’s to pick a couple of people to get a copy of the Standard Guide sent to you. Currently my blog has about 20 readers, so your chance of getting this book is pretty high! Sorry for the Advanced teachers, I was only sent three copies of that book and I have to give my parents one each (they’re divorced). 

(Hopefully people are not judging me for writing this post and sharing screen shots of my books. I just decided it is time that I sit back and think positively about what I have achieved over the last decade. I don’t know if I’ll write HSC study guides again in the future, as I really don’t like the HSC at all, so I feel really conflicted about it. I guess for me, I take great pleasure in reading all of the set texts and writing about them (it helps me be a better teacher), plus I really like knowing that I might be helping some students and teachers I don’t know. So, yeah…)

When will the ‘grade addiction’ end? Probs never.

In one of my recent blog posts I reflected on our year 8 English/Geography project, where students composed personal essays about Australia’s relationship with water. Students handed in their essays on Wednesday, Week 10, and after marking them, I handed them back on Thursday, Week 11. I wanted to get them marked quickly as we are publishing them in an anthology for parents early next term. Anyway, I decided to give my students just their qualitative feedback on Thursday. Here was my process:

– First, I explained to them the ‘codes’ that I used when giving feedback on their personal essay. I’ve blogged about this process previously, but you can see in the screenshot below what it looks like. Screen Shot 2019-04-13 at 8.20.15 am
– After I was confident all students understood the codes, I then gave back their essays ONLY (no marks) and had them identify their personal ‘medals and missions’ based on the codes/ticks/comments given throughout. They wrote on the back of their essays two medals and two missions for themselves based on my feedback.
– Once I had checked they had their two medals and missions written, I gave back the ‘medals and missions’ given by me (I wrote two-three medals and missions for each student, using the same language as the code list above). I then asked them to compare my M&Ms to the ones they had identified. Students loved seeing they were ‘right’ if we had the same ones.
– Next, I had each student write their ‘writing goals for Term 2’ in a Google Doc in our Google Drive. These goals will focus them for our writing focus for our next project.
Screen Shot 2019-04-13 at 8.23.08 am
– After this process, the class looked at me expectantly, and I told them they wouldn’t be getting marks back because what was important was not a number on a piece of paper, but how much they had improved as writers. When I said this there was almost a mini revolt (funny in hindsight but at the time a bit depressing), lost of sighing, shaking of heads and muttered comments (I’m at a selective school, so their ‘revolts’ are admittedly pretty tame).
It’s funny, because I had planned to give them their marks back at the very end of the lesson, but their response made me withhold them until the next day. I actually thought that I might receive an email from a parent questioning my approach, given that one student asked me what they would tell their parents when they asked how they did with the task. (My response to this question was this, ‘Show them the medals and missions, and explain to them how this task helped you to grow as a writer.’) Anyway, planning for my next lesson, I got together their mark sheets (all formal on a criteria based on syllabus outcomes, don’t worry NESA, I know what I’m required to do) ready to hand back. I expected them to be badgering me for their marks the minute they came into the room, but not a single student asked me about their marks. Not one. We did a bunch of fun team-building activities, ate some Easter eggs, and then a couple of minutes before the bell, I asked them if they wanted their marks. They were pretty surprised, as they had believed me when I said I wasn’t giving them marks. Only one student said he didn’t want his (he thought he had done pretty badly, even though I thought his piece was lovely) yet what I was pleasing when the others got their marks is that they just sort of went ‘whatever’ and there was no screaming out, ‘What did you get?’. That was refreshing.
Anyway, this experience reminded me that our young people learn this addiction to grades from us, the adults. They don’t desire a mark or a grade for the mud pie they make and proudly display when they are 3. They don’t want to be given a piece of paper with an A on it when they learn to ride a bike. We make this unnatural framework for their learning, and often all it does is create anxiety, perfectionism, conflict, competition and, worst of all, not great learners. When I was at Davo, I stopped giving marks to all students in 7-10. It wasn’t faculty policy (even when I tried to suggest it become policy, the other teachers challenged me, and I lost) but I could see the really awful impact that marks were having on my students, typically those right at the ends of the learner spectrum – underachievers and overachievers.
I know I can’t do anything about the education system. I have resigned to my own futility – perhaps that’s what happens as you edge 40, and 15 years in the education system? I do know that I can change my attitude and approach to assessment in my classroom. That’s what I plan to do.