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January 6, 2011

Grades and Homework

So, Christmas break is officially over. We're back to school at Crossroads. I thought the students were in generally good spirits about being back at school.

Welcome back to everyone else returning to schools out there. Now we move forward on the journey towards June. Of course, as Jim Knight would say, the learning doesn't stop there. As the rest of the school year comes and goes, what to teach, how to teach it, and when to teach it, are questions we'll have in our heads.

One particular idea has been in my mind over break. I watched a DVD by Alfie Kohn in which he strongly criticized the practice of giving homework and grades. The DVD is titled, "No Grades + No Homework = Better Learning."

Kohn raises some interesting points about homework and grades, some of which I'll attempt to cover in the next few posts. Basically, he makes the case that homework results in a "2nd shift" for students, and doesn't really encourage deeper understanding of knowledge. According to Kohn, the practice of homework might help students do better on memorization-dependent tests (which he is also critical of), but doesn't help them foster lasting understanding and connections.

Grades, he believes, do not increase meaningful (intrinsic) motivation to learn. They lead to shallower learning and unnecessary classification. Indeed, some interesting ideas. Probably quite in contrast to what goes on in many K-12 schools.

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