Summer Experiment: Going "Grade-Less"

It's Friday morning of my first week of summer and I am getting things together to take back to campus because I start summer school on Monday. I love summer school. Four short weeks of accelerated teaching, a crash course of content with students who all have a reason to be there, summer school is full of this energy and drive you don't get in the normal year. I also love summer because it is the perfect place to try something new.

This summer, I am changing my grading practices. I am changing my grading practices because I am frustrated by how often students copy and cheat, I am frustrated by how defeated students become from a zero, I am frustrated by the question "how many points do I need on this assignment to...?", I am frustrated that compliance is more important than learning, I am frustrated that the traditional system offers little room for growth mindset, I am frustrated that my traditional grading practices don't focus on learning at all.

So, I read as many books  (some found here and here) as I could manage on the subject and blogs and articles, until it was clear that I was getting the same message over and over and over again: there is a way to grade for learning but it is insane and crazy and student centered. You hand the reigns over to the students and in exchange you promise them clear, consistent, meaningful feedback.

This summer, I am trying a reflective grading approach that has students reflect and provide evidence of how they have met each learning objective. I am hoping to use OneNote ClassNotebook for students to write daily reflections on each learning objective we covered that day. They will explain if they have met the objective using a four point rubric, and then must include evidence on meeting that standard (assignments we've done, quizzes we've taken, etc). I know how I've set it up is probably not perfect, but the beauty of summer school is that it moves so quickly and you have to provide feedback (and update grades) so often that I'll know within the first day or two what's working and what needs to change.

So far, the planning has been a mountain of work but it is work that has me excited about what I am teaching. I can better articulate how each lesson or activity supports the objectives (because if I can't, how can I expect my students to be able to?) and because of this I've cut out the "busy work." I have had to be more clear about how and when to deliver feedback and I've built in more time to talk with each student every week using the secondary Station Rotation model.

Will it work? The research says it will, the books say it will, but I guess I am about to find out. I'll be sharing updates weekly on this so feel free to subscribe and follow along as I take my classroom in a whole new direction.

What are your thoughts on grading? (Big question, I know!) Share in the comments!

Happy Summer,

Mrs. Kathryn Byars


  1. First of all, kudos to you for blogging about your journey to change your grading system. I will also be teaching summer school (for the very first time) and using blogs as a reflection tool and as a way to motivate others to experiment with new ideas and strategies. I applaud you for rethinking grades. Often, students are motivated by grades and not by learning. One thing I'm trying this summer is a very simple rubric: Proficient, Not Yet Proficient, and No Credit/Missing. My goal is to give students a second and even third chance to master learning if they initially receive a score of Not Yet Proficient. (I hope I don't have to give any scores of NO CREDIT.) There is a TED talk about using the phrase "Not Yet". I believe it gives students a message that learning is a life long pursuit. I am also attempting the Station Rotation model for the first time-on the first day of summer school no less. Wish me luck.

  2. I welcome all the suggestion mentioned in this blog related to new learning skills. It is definitely going to help me to adopt new exited way of learning. I think, others will also feel helpful this blog for their needs.
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