What do students think their own grades should be? Do students always think their grades should be higher? Do teachers grade students lower in order to motivate student efforts? What is the role of student expectations in future educational settings?
So it turns out that students tend to have a very accurate idea of what their grades should be. Hattie (2009. Visible Learning. New York: Routledge.) documents that:
“On the one hand, this shows a remarkably high level of predictability about achievement in the classroom (and should question the necessity of so many tests when students appear to already have much of the information the tests supposedly provide), but on the other hand, these expectations of success (which are sometimes set lower than students could attain) may become a barrier for some students as they may only perform to whatever expectations they already have of their ability.”—Hattie, 2009, p. 44
So if teachers think that grading students lower will motivate them, they may be making a mistake. Accuracy in grading, based on student demonstration of what they know and can do, may be the more helpful way to assess students. Students know.
Future Educational Settings
So what does this mean for future innovations in testing students in schools? Perhaps we could enlist students in documenting what they know and can do? Why not use the computer to have students write about what they are learning, document the outcomes of applying that knowledge, and commenting on the context in which they learned and applied their knowledge. And let us let them check off the boxes next to the level of standards they attained. Why not have teachers help them by guiding and coaching students along the way?
From an assessment point of view, I am always calling for more transparency. Transparency in assessment means that the tests they are taking makes sense to their learning. So, transparency could mean that students are using tests to document their learning more than tests are being used by testing companies and districts to rank and sort student performance. Instead of tests being sent into schools, we should be making tests with students that document how they learn, and what they have attained, and sending them out to outsiders as transparent proof of their learning.
These digital portfolios of student accomplishment could be sent out with rubrics and teacher comments along with the context of how and when students attained each skill. The students could carry their passport of learning, complete with a portfolio of skills and assessments, on a drive in their book-bag. Students should be able to explain, show and demonstrate why they are so good at knowing their own grades. Finally, we should ask students to try and surpass their own ideas of their grades, in order to accelerate their learning. This is the transparency that would more likely motivate students to do better.