Students must have self-awareness

During the #IMMOOC episode 4 chatPatrick Larkin brought up something that has been at the forefront of my mind since starting this school year: students need to have more self-awareness than they currently have if they plan to be a successful, contributing member of society.

We are training students to be less self-aware

The school system our students are going through (I say that purposefully), in many ways, is unchanged since my time as a student: we are training students to be less self-aware than when they entered. Teachers create assessments and assign grades to student work. Students accept the judgment/score/grade and parents push their children for higher scores. On both ends of this arrangement are teachers and parents. In the middle, with no say whatsoever, is the stakeholder. You know, the student? The person the entire thing was developed FOR?

Screen Shot 2017-10-20 at 11.57.05 AM.png

We grade to give feedback. That’s why grading was created a long time ago. Great. Well, now that we’re in the year 2017, and we know that formative, immediate feedback is more effective than a random grade.

We know that:

  1. Students ignore any constructive feedback if there is a grade on the assignment
  2. Student motivation decreases with grades on papers (Tom Schimmer)
  3. The actual grade varies drastically from teacher to teacher (Alice Keeler)

I’m certain of another side-effect: with grades, a student is less self-aware of their past learning and their progress towards goals. It is inevitable that by the time a student is in their 11th or 12th grade of school, they do not care to really think about the subjects they’re learning, put in an effort to extend their knowledge deeper, or to find any connections between the subjects and their real lives. All they want is a high grade that makes their parents happy so they’re off their backs.

Great job, conventional school system. #sarcasm

This year…

I’ve tried something new. Instead of giving grades on assignments, I’ve had students self-assess their work throughout a unit. Thanks to G Suite and Kaizena, I’m able to give students constructive feedback in written or spoken form. This feedback has NO correlation, connection, or implication to a grade; the feedback is a suggestion for a student’s next step(s). The students use OurStickys to keep their goals/questions/thoughts on their related work (i.e., writing goals on their draft’s google doc).

empower.jpgUltimately, they choose what they need to work on – they can take or leave my suggestions. Why? Because I want THEM to take charge of THEIR learning.


We have only just finished the seventh week of school, but I’ve noticed something extraordinary in my classroom and my students’ parents are confirming my noticings: students are highly engaged and motivated to LEARN. I’m not assigning homework, yet students come in sharing things they learned about a topic the night before because they were curious. Parents are telling me that their child is telling them clearly what their weaknesses are and how they’re working towards making them strengths.

I am amazed.

One way to grow self-awareness:

My move away from grades and towards feedback wasn’t hard. In fact, it was incredibly easy, once I got over that initial inclination to score work.

  1. Give students the unit/lesson objectives
  2. Allow student choice and flexibility within your parameters
  3. Schedule daily time for students to reflect on their learning (in each subject)
  4. Set up time and space for students to work with and learn from each other
  5. Give feedback daily: in person, typed as comments in GoogleClassroom or their work, speak your thoughts using Kaizena, or give them video responses using FlipGrid or WebCam Record.
  6. Organize a system for students to start a conversation about their learning WITH their parents (note the changed arrangement below)

Screen Shot 2017-10-20 at 12.03.54 PM

My next step to help them grow their self-awareness is to have them write suggestions for the narrative portion of their own report cards (I wish I didn’t have to give a grade, but I do…). Hopefully, by the time we are at that point (thank you semester schedule), students will be ready for it. At their pace, I think it’s possible.


Couros, George. 2017, October 4. #IMMOOC Season 3, Episode 2 – With Alice Keeler @AliceKeeler. Retrieved from YouTube.

Couros, George. 2017, October 18. #IMMOOC Season 3, Episode 4 – With Patrick Larkin @PatrickMLarkin. Retrieved from YouTube.

Instructional Agility; Re-Assessment the Right Way; Student Agency Matters. Tom Schimmer. 2016.



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