As a student, I had serious grade anxiety. I was constantly concerned about maintaining a high GPA and making honor roll. My barometer for success rested on grades, so much so that I conflated grades with long term success in my post-grad life, as if memorization of a Shakespeare sonnet meant I could attain my dream job. I occupied a surface level of learning, concerned with immediacy of a score, not realizing that grades are only reflective of a small part of the learning that occurs within schools.
Now, I recognize that education is much more about long-term learning.
Create a Growth Mindset in Education
We live in a time when the one constant is a constant evolution of technology and our interaction with it. In an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times, Thomas Friedman writes: “self-motivation to learn and keep learning becomes the most important life skill.”
Work environments are agile and jobs are cross-discipline. Friedman notes that with the advent of new technology, jobs constantly evolve. Self-driving cars will likely replace bus or taxi drivers. Manual labor is supplemented by robots. This doesn’t mean jobs disappear, but rather, they change. Success in the future will be contingent on our ability to grow and adapt with this change.
The 21st century workplace requires people to be comfortable with the unknown and think critically; it requires lifelong learners. So, students like me need to step back from the mere achievement of a letter grade and go deeper into the skills mathematical proofs and language instruction develop.
Assessments: Recognize the Short- and Long-Term Purpose
Balance Scores and Growth
Assessments, from school to federally mandated, aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Therefore, to empower students, we need to change our relationship to assessments—a concept Friedman discusses in his article. We have to take the immediacy of a score and balance it with encouraging growth and, ultimately, lifelong learning.
To review this concept, Friedman cites a study completed by College Board about the PSAT and SAT exams. The study found that students who used their PSAT results to create a personalized study program, like that offered by Khan Academy, drastically improved their scores. In fact, “20 hours of practice was associated with an average 115-point increase from the PSAT to the SAT — double the average gain among students who did not.” Friedman concludes:
Practice Makes Perfect: Create Opportunities for Growth
- Use assessment results to individualize learning.
- Implement growth measurements as a factor of grading.
- Ask the right questions of assessment results to see where students can grow.
- Explore project based learning for long term, big picture learning opportunities.