Monday, May 5, 2014

Grades Gotta Go! (Part 6: "A Better Way - Feedback That Feeds Forward")

It is fitting that this post is about feedback. A couple weeks ago, my wife read my posts about grades and gave me some feedback. She said, "These posts are always so depressing." Well, that happened to be timely feedback because it is time to turn the corner to the hope that a grading overhaul can bring. The solution is wrapped up in one word: FEEDBACK!

My wife, I have to be honest, was right. The first posts in this series are depressing. It is sad to see what we are guilty of doing to children in the name of giving them an education. My hope in presenting the impact of the problems is that people will see that this "disease" is very real, very harmful, and in very real need of a remedy. Without coming to that conclusion, little effort will be expended to create a new reality.

Now, it is time to focus on the actions necessary to create that new reality. This process begins with coming to a consensus around the word "accountability" by answering one question: What do we need to hold students accountable for?

The number one answer should be learning, as demonstrated by mastery. If we agree on that answer, then we need to agree that traditional grading methods are some of the worst means of measuring accountability (for all the reasons mentioned in my previous posts). A new, simpler method is to plainly show what a student knows compared to the standard of what the student is expected to know.

With that established as the objective worth measuring, then we can turn attention to giving feedback that is specific, timely and actionable. Good feedback will tell students and parents where gaps are present, how big those gaps are, and most importantly, how to close the gaps.
So, let's focus now on how to use valuable feedback systems to truly hold students accountable for the right things.

Here are links to useful resources on this topic:

If I had to prioritize the steps to take in creating an effective feedback process, I would probably put emphasis on ensuring that feedback is actionable (#3) and timely (#5). The most powerful feedback also "feeds forward" to improved performance. It gives the student an idea of where to go next in the learning process. The timing of the feedback is also important. The sooner a student can receive and respond to feedback, the better.

Hopefully, there will be much more to come about ways to inject better feedback loops into our student accountability systems in our schools.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Made In a Free World

Today, I want to feature "Made In a Free World". I guess you could call it an organization or a ministry, but I like the description of "disruptive network" because of the way they connect individuals, groups, businesses, etc. to disrupt slavery and spread freedom.

Justin Dillon
I heard the founder, Justin Dillon, speak at the Free Austin summit hosted by Allies Against Slavery in October 2013. He is a creative, musical artist that has harnessed some energy and resources to do impressive things in the fight against human trafficking and slave labor.

As a newbie to the world of the modern day abolition movement, it is sometimes confusing to understand the real problem and even more difficult to realize the best solutions. What I appreciate about Made In a Free World is the job they do of breaking down the problem into understandable parts, and then giving people practical steps to make a difference. 

Please consider checking out their additional website resource, Slavery Footprint. Here you can take a survey to find the answer to a most uncomfortable question: How many slaves work for you? I have done this, and I will be the first to confess that I have too many working for me. (I know one is too many, but I have many more than that, and I don't even drink coffee!)

If you are like me, then there is a part of you that would rather not do things like this. It is easier for me to live in denial about some things. It is better to not know. "Ignorance is bliss," they say. But I can guarantee you "they" aren't slaves.

I have come to accept that I won't be able to change the world with just knowledge, but neither will I help it with guilt. So, feeling guilty is not the aim. My hope is to spread awareness. With a growing awareness comes more options. It is what offers us a vision of freedom for more people than have it now. Information alone changes nothing, but nothing changes without information. So, let's just start there.