Tuesday, January 17, 2017

I'm Back.... A Semester of Gradeless Work and Innovation in the Classroom

It's been a little over 6 months to the day since my last post, a lot has happened. I've started another degree program, I'm participating in so much PD that at times it seems I'm out of my classroom more than I am in it. I'm working. I'm learning. I'm wife-ing. I'm mom-ing. I'm training for a 55k. I'm just plain busy. However, in the midst of my hectic life so much greatness has occurred in my classroom.

Let's first visit the gradeless experiment that I survived first semester. My students love it. I've received no parent complaints or negative feedback. In fact, my students have thrived so much that they have asked to loop as a class with me into their junior year AP Language and Composition if I will continue the experiment with them. The students feel that they are allowed to focus more on their learning than their grades - can you believe it? They feel less stress in my class and they appreciate that I treat them as adults and that they get a say in their "grade."

The struggles for me have been in my book keeping. First, I love FreshGrade. This web based portfolio/ grade book has been a life saver. It is user friendly (both teacher and student). It allows for document and video upload. It also lets me enter learning targets and use words and anecdotes as feedback versus a letter or number grade. The problem isn't with the method I am using, it is with me. I struggle to enter anecdotal evidence and video conferences with my students as often as I need to. Creating this balance with all of my other courses and life is the true struggle. Don't get me wrong, my students are aware of where there are on a learning target on a daily basis and I give written and verbal feedback it is just the recording of all of this evidence that trips me up. HELP!

The thing about going gradeless in my Pre-AP LA II classroom is that is has helped me to cultivate an innovative mindset. Innovation isn't just about technology, it's a way of thinking. In my Breakthrough Learning PD we've been studying The Innovator's Mindset by George Couros and I've been able to frame his characteristics of an innovator's mindset around my gradeless classroom. I'm taking risks. I'm solving problems. I'm reflecting. I'm creating. I'm making my classroom and the learning in it BETTER. And guess what? My students are applying these same principles and characteristics to their learning. We are creating a community of innovation. 

There are days I want to throw in the towel with going gradeless. It's hard. It challenges me. It challenges my students. But I know that the work to change grading that I am doing is worth it and that my students and their learning are worth it. And like George Couros says, "Change is an opportunity to do something amazing." 

What are you going to change in your teaching? Your classroom? How are you embodying an innovator's mindset in your classroom? How are your students? Keep me posted on how it's going and have great week!


  1. Hi Melissa!

    Have you considered having students capture learning through the FreshGrade Student app? This will reduce the burden on you to capture and increase student pride and ownership in their work. This can be done once a week or more through BYOD, use of device carts, one to one (if you're lucky!) or other methods like capturing at home if that fits your class model.

    Thank you for this great post about your FreshGrade experience! Good luck on the 55k!

    1. Thanks for the tip! I will check this out.