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The Manifestation of Remediation
“If I have a broken arm based on an x-ray, should everyone be asked to wear a cast?” This is the way David Goodwin, a Math Teacher at Bear Creek High School of Stockton, feels about the way grades are being applied to our learning community in the concept of group critique and individual growth.
In a student’s entire academic career, they are evaluated purely on their basis to execute and accomplish the milestone of achieving a “good grade”. It is no secret that this ability of some students has not only separated the learning community but crippled many, if not all, of the students in some way.
The issues are obvious, the solution is upon discovery: How do we replace the grading system? Alas, we simplify the entire process with Remediation Assessing & Pass/Fail evaluation.
Students who will break their backs (or someone else’s) to maintain an ‘A’ grade are withdrawing the same sacrifice as students who break their sleeping habits to fight against the weight of battling an F. Regardless of their background or ambition, both of these students are victims to the same exact issues within their education: crippled individuality. It is believed that a solution to this umbrella evaluation is to allow each student to be seen for the skills he or she has proven to be able to exhibit. This demonstration of skills will ultimately show the higher-ups who is ready to move onto the next stage of their education.
As reviewed, a majority of the education community already knows that grades are an on-going disappointment as a rubric of knowledgeable measure. In “Against School”, by John Taylor Gatto, he makes it very clear that “Schools are meant to tag the unfit - with poor grades, remedial placement, and other punishments - clearly enough that their peers will accept them as inferior and effectively bar them from the reproductive sweepstakes.” This idea supports the idea that, not only are schools doing students a disservice, but this puts an emphasis of the bigger picture: grades are only one nasty portion of a much bigger monster. Alfie Kohn’s “From Degrading To De-Grading” article does a fine job of reminding us exactly why grades are bad but he lacks the optimsm to actually help the community find a fix! John Gatto claims the first step is to ‘wake up to what our schools really are’ and to ‘let them [adult individuals] manage themselves’.
There have been multiple said “solutions” to the quarrel of grading. What we currently believe to be true about these passing outcomes to the main problem is not completely thorough. Ahead, are some examples of replacements that can be made to the grading system with high probability of success. These tactics have been proposed by scholarly sources as well as fellow professors and grade-school teachers.
Initially, we have the Digital Badge system. This is a higher education system used to allow students to earn their knowledge as they go. Step by step, students unlock a new badge when they complete the previous one. Each Badge is like an index of a students’ knowledge or their “learning biography” as Mr. Alex Halavais calls it. Halavais is the Interactive Communications professor at Quinnipaic University in Connecticut. This concept was adopted in 2011 and has proven to be a very flexible, personable format of learning for his students. He reported this change made them better study partners and community partners.
The system is a peer-reviewed process where students who have already obtained higher level badges in the class can approve badges for their classmates. These reviews are then checked by the instructor for a final overview to ensure substance and complete understanding of the knowledge in one lesson.
An incentive vibration has officially been established once the class understands that they are earning badges by completing assignments. Upon gaining a new badge, new assignments are unlocked for the student to continue learning at their own pace. Although the Digital Badge System has, nearly, all pros, there is one major con to be considered. This format would be interestingly complicated to apply to K-12 environments. It is not impossible to imagine, but because of the independent factors of online work, Digital Badges could actually cripple some K-12 students rather than help them further. To have a functioning replacement for grades, there needs to be %100 conversion to any and all levels of education - regardless of private or public.
Secondly, the “Non-Binding Grade System” is an outstanding theory of traditional grade abolishment. Non-Binding grades seize the concept of an instructor presenting potent feedback on assignments that, otherwise, relate to what a grade does but students are only given a final course grade on the final integrative essay and exam of the class.
When students are not bound to a grade in the moments that it “counts” or not, it takes away the academic obsession with achieving a letter and replaces that interest in achieving knowledge. Suddenly, the class is given room to breath, make mistakes, and learn from them as the course progresses so that, in the end, they should be able to execute a cohesive, integrative essay - ultimately Passing the course. Not only does this stress reliever calm the minds, but it allows learners to do more critical thinking inside the classroom when the instructor is delivering a lesson. Students in Mrs. Laura Redeihs Philosophy class at St. Lawrence University demonstrated better participation by showing closer attentiveness to discussions, in-class notes, and returned homework material. However, her use of this beautiful system had one hole in the water basket: integrity.
Redeihs found that students revealed temptation to skip out on quizzes and entire homework assignments. Once a student fell behind, they did not do well catching up and tended to do poorly on their final exam. Unfortunately, this shows evidence that not all participants of a class can be trusted to stay self-motivated when given the benefit of the doubt. In the end, this system did show the highest benefits combatting the outshined issues.
“A grade simply measures a person’s level of understanding/mastery of content…”, says Goodwin, “Once a concept is mastered, one can then confidently move forward and challenge their mind with new concepts and materials.” If this sounds familiar, it is because Mr. Goodwin’s philosophy organically responds to grades the same way Halavais’s Badge System does. Although, his system would have a difficult time transfering to the K-12 environments, it purely shows that this level of thinking by teachers is wide-span and necessary for a successful solution across the board.
What all levels of education do have is the option to take certain classes based on a certain level of knowledge. Whether a student is in Kindergarten or their Senior Year of High School, they (or their parents) are given the option of what courses that person needs to take based on their mastered knowledge from the previous year. This is where the concept of Remediation comes in.
When people think of the word “Remedial”, it is often given a negative connotation. By definition, to “mediate” means:
To bring about (an agreement or peace) an accord between two parties by removal of misunderstanding.
To effect or convey a message as an intermediary.
What if education had the power to implement these qualities into a positive educational environment for students who temporarily struggle to understand their curriculum. The world can expand on this concept by “simply giving students another chance at the material”, as Goodwin sincerely states.
If everyone was given one chance in their entire academic career to improve while learning, imagine the difference education would have in the graduation rate. Goodwin makes a great point, “Why wait a year to repeat a class?”, he challenges. The Remediation Concept allows students the opportunity to learn exactly what they are not understanding in a learning environment that is specifically geared to what they need to assess for a Pass. Not only can this system be used in all levels of education (because every level has students that struggle with curriculum), but the Concept of Remediation can be used as a complete assessment to cancel out all other proposals made to replace traditional grading.
If an educator combined every theory previously elaborated on, they could easily use one test to place the student in the right classes so that he or she would not make the mistake of taking a course too advanced for their mastery in the first place. This would save counselors, teachers, parents, and most importantly, students a lot of time and mental energy in their academic career. A grade is like a medical diagnosis: if a doctor looks at one X-ray in a room of people, should they all wear a cast? This same analogy can be applied to education. If one student is falling behind in class, should the entire group be forced to wait for the less fortunate learner to catch up? These are questions that can be easily assessed by any educator who has ever had trouble giving a student a grade in their whole career.
After breaking down the Digital Badge system, it is safe to further dive into experimenting with this concept in a K-12 environment. Unfortunately, not all students are as self-motivated as others and they definitely do not take the same level of initiative. Some students have more access to digital technology and online resources to complete badges on their own time as well. The Digital Badge system seems amazing for higher education, because of the independent incentive vibe, but this could be fatal to a younger community of less organized learners.
Once the Non-Binding Grade System is analyzed, it is also a liability to the less ambitious students. Instructors must pay close attention to each student, being more than sure each individual is keeping up with the curriculum so they can pass their final exam and integrative essay. This concept shares a lackcing characteristic of student initiative. Can teachers trust every student in all of their classes to do homework, take notes, critically engage, and have a genuine desire to learn even when it doesn't necessarily “count”? This will take some time for students to get used to, given the fact they have been conditioned to memorize information for a grade their entire lives. This concept requires more question asking from the teacher before giving students the responsibility to keep up with their own passion to learn. When it’s all said and done, the student must care for their own knowledge just as much as the teacher.
The problematic aspects of the previous theories are obvious. Although this is true, every teacher is different and the possibility of improvement does exist somewhere in this world. The final solution to replacing grades in education comes down to creating a functioning sustem of Remediation. This theory of Remedial education does not imply that students should required to retake an entire class once they have failed the course. This theory proposes that a student should be able to mediate their conflicts with the subject immediately after showing signs of weakness. The Remediation concept opens the doors for students to stay on track with their education, learn what they need as they go, and return to their place when they are ready. This can be transferred to all grade-levels as well as higher education.
After a student has returned to their original class position (with assistance), they will only advance once exhibiting mastery of the subject. The teacher will determine their mastery based on a very simple Pass/Fail rubric. There is no assignment of a good, or bad letter, no confusion of GPAs, no decimals or ridiculous squabbling; the student will simply Pass or Fail the Mastery Exam. Upon their well earned Pass, students will advance to their next educational level!
This sounds like a happy ending to a Disney film, but, in fact, it can be reality in this lifetime. If instructors, parents, students, and board members all come together in an organized, cordial fashion, a transformation of education can be achieved for the future of the youth involved. Oh, the possibilities… with manifestation of remediation.
Ash, Katie. “Colleges Use 'Digital Badges' to Replace Traditional Grading.” Education Week Digital Directions, Educational Week, 29 Apr. 2016, www.edweek.org/dd/articles/2012/06/13/03badges-s1.h05.html.
Gatto, John Taylor. “Against School.” Wesjones.com/gatto1.Htm, Wes Jones, 2003, wesjones.com/gatto1.htm.
Goodwin, David. “Dave Goodwin Interview.” 10 Mar. 2018.
Kohn, Alfie. “From Degrading to De-Grading.” Alfie Kohn, High School Magazine, 23 Feb. 2016, www.alfiekohn.org/article/degrading-de-grading/.
Rediehs, Laura. “Laura Rediehs Philosophy Page.” Laura Rediehs: Grading, L. Rediehs, 26 Jan. 2009, it.stlawu.edu/~lrediehs/grading.htm.