To Grade or Not to Grade

In accordance with AiFL I have been avoiding putting grades on the first drafts of pupils’ work.  The hope is that they will pay greater attention to the comments rather than looking at the mark then discarding the work contentedly/disgruntedly.  People generally liked to be graded though and so when I first started this practise the classes were not happy bunnies at all:

“But what did I get???”

“Miss, you haven’t marked this properly.”

“What’s the point then?”

After repeated explanations and assurances that I am not being lazy and, in fact, this is being done for their benefit they have finally come to accept this way of working.  And now I’m starting to question if it is for the best.  One of my pupils, Ryan, suggested an alternative.  He claims that whenever he gets a borderline mark (e.g. Standard Grade 2/3 or 3/4) he wants to know how to improve his writing skills to enable him to achieve a solid 2 or 3 or whatever. 

So I carried out a wee experiment.  I returned one class’s essays with comments but no marks (class A).  The other class (B) had their essays returned with comments and borderline grades.  The results were pretty striking.  More than half the members of class B came to me in the following few days asking for specific advice on their writing skills.  Only one person in class A did the same. 

Going to reverse the experiment after Easter and see if class B are just particularly motivated or if the “Ryan Method” is worth continuing.


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