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Getting Students to Buy Into a Focus on Learning

As educators we definitely care more about Learning than we care about Grading.  So it tends to frustrate us when our students seem to only care about getting a Grade. 

Do you ever wish you could redirect your students' focus to learning?  While it's not easy to do so, it's also not impossible.  Since most students will not unilaterally change their focus, we have to make sure that:

  1. Everything we do reinforces the fact that we value Learning over Grading, and that
  2. Nothing we do encourages students to focus on Grades.

Those 2 ideas might sound overly simplified, but the ramifications are immense.  If we honestly analyze traditional assessment practices, we'll start to find that much of what we do puts a focus on getting a grade.  Even the relatively "enlightened" practice of allowing retakes can end up causing kids to focus on trying to raise their grades rather than learn content. (For more on the subject of retakes, read this previous post.)

But when a teacher gives students regular feedback that is focused on learning - rather than on grades - it is possible to train students to think, communicate, and focus in a learning-centered manner.  Below is an email that one of our teachers sent me recently.  In it she recounts a conversation with a student who exemplified a focus on learning.  I hope as you read it you can imagine the satisfaction this teacher felt (as opposed to the typical frustration we feel when students just care about grades).

So I've been talking about mastery and areas of weakness more this year with my students. I'm trying to communicate it better, and I have done different exercises with them to help them diagnose their weaknesses.

Anyways, cool moment today - I had a girl who came to me on her own willingly and took out one of the papers I gave her last week on which she diagnosed her weakness during a station review. 

She said, "Can I go in the hallway and work on my weakness?"

I said, "Well, I haven't handed back the mastery sheet yet from your test today, but of course you can.   Do you know what your weak standards are?"

She responded with, "Yes I do,  I have the paper we used last week where we did stations, and I was able to pick out what I need to work on."

Keep in mind, this is a student who is more of an typical or middle-of-the-road student, not necessarily one who would be seen as an overachiever. In other words, my talk of "mastery and weakness" is working!  :)

Awesome!  How fun it was to read this email and to celebrate with a teacher who is helping students value learning!

(For more information on how this specific teacher helps students identify areas of weakness, read this previous post.)

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