Invitations and Mandates

Nicholas J has a great post up asking, do grades hinder learning?  We’re in agreement on this one that the answer is probably yes.

Poor or mediocre grades can convince us that we just aren’t good at math or writing or foreign languages or just not cut out for school.  High grades might make us risk averse; the upside of trying to think outside the box for a paper or project or taking on a challenging course might not be worth the risk of permanent damage to our GPAs.

Ultimately grades are an external motivator that make school work more about pleasing the teacher than about learning for its own sake.

Schools can operate without grades, of course, though they don’t often choose to do so. Montessori schools, for example, eschew them.

Some readers may know that I am a proponent of public Montessori programs.  One of the wonderful things about Montessori is that it is an invitation to the children to learn, not a mandate.  Children are capable of amazing work when we get this invitation right, although getting the invitation right can be a tricky business.

I accepted the Blogathon Challenge on a whim on January 1st.  While not a classic blunder on the scale of going against a Sicilian with death on the line, I have concluded that I need a plan to get through at least the next few weeks of the Challenge.  So I’m planning a series of shorter posts about various features of the Montessori method that make it possible for Montessori schools to issue invitations to the children to learn rather than mandates.


One thought on “Invitations and Mandates

  1. Dr. Trace Pickering

    Agreed. Grading is a tool for sorting-and-selecting the population you are evaluating. They have no basis in research and are easily “gamed”. Simply note the issues with grade inflation. If students are assessed on clear competencies they must demonstrate in a variety of contexts it becomes hard to game. Sports and other co-curricular activities are competency-based. Players don’t get grades for their basketball abilities – they have to demonstrate their on-going competencies again and again in real time.

    If we want to truly transform education we have to aggressively expose and challenge those elements of our existing system that are expressly designed to sort and select. The new Gallup poll on education has some interesting findings that support the Montessori and other progressive approaches to learning.

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