In the early 1970s, Proctor underwent a transformative period in its history as it launched off-campus programs, became co-educational, and embraced a new era of leadership. Faculty acknowledged attitude and effort played a key role in learning. They saw each student enter the learning process with different skills and varying prior knowledge. To simply assess students on their academic ‘performance’ as defined by a quiz or test score seemed inadequate.
What teachers knew at that time, and believe today, is that when kids worked hard, they grew as students. It was important to link that hard work with achievement to communicate to parents the importance of that effort and to students the sole measure of their achievement in school was not a numerric grade.
As this post from December discusses, as a school we are what we assess. Therefore, we are involved in a constant conversation about how we provide feedback to students and whether the feedback processes we use align with our mission as a school.
Proctor’s comprehensive academic program is grounded in experiential education, historical experience, and brain science on connecting students to their own learning. Our curriculum and pedagogy align with our Profile of a Proctor Graduate. Our on-going implementation of formative assessment as an evaluative tool to optimize student learning continue to drive conversation around how we can emphasize feedback over grades.
As educators, many of us have read Carol Dweck’s Mindset (see Ted Talk below) and identify with her philosophy of a growth mindset. For teachers at Proctor, this model of education is ingrained us. It has been for over 40 years. We know students are on a learning continuum and believe deeply students’ abilities can be developed when they embrace a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset. This belief spawned Proctor's off-campus programs as a way to provide students non-classroom educational experiences where they could feel the connection between their actions and their understanding.
For the past 40 years, just as they did this week when students received end of term grades and teacher comments, report cards contained an effort grade next to the numerical grade for each course. This tradition of assessing effort as a component of student feedback has evolved over time, and will once again evolve this spring.
Through the work of a committee of administrators and faculty, Proctor’s traditional ‘effort grades’ are being expanded to a feedback tool focused on both tangible and intangible academic behaviors. A select group of teachers will test drive this mechanism in their courses during the Spring Term. The goal is to measure the efficacy of a more detailed feedback process on student academic behaviors focused on responsibility, collaboration, resiliency, and self-awareness that provides 'real time' feedback, not grades after the learning is 'done'. By providing feedback on the behaviors most closely associated with learning and achievement, students become better managers of their own learning.
We are excited about it and believe it will help transform student ownership of their own learning. We’ll keep you posted on how it works!