Students to negotiate grades in Ontario-based pilot project

Dean from Wilfrid Laurier University thinks grades carry a lot of weight and are sometimes overrated

A new pilot project at a high school in Ontario will see Grade 9 students negotiating their end-of-semester grades with their teacher, an idea some experts say will help keep the focus on learning.

The students, enrolled in four courses at Mayfield Secondary School in Caledon, Ont., will receive feedback from their teacher throughout the semester, but not grades. At the end of the term, they’ll sit down with the teacher and evaluate their course work and will, ideally, come to an agreement on an appropriate final grade.

“It’ll be a negotiation process where they have a conversation about the learning, and the student can articulate exactly what they’ve learned and how they’ve grown as a learner,” said school principal James Kardash. “And when we can get to that, we’re starting to make inroads on what education should really be about.”

Experts have had mixed reactions to the idea.

Colleen Willard-Holt, dean of the faculty of education at Wilfrid Laurier University, thinks grades carry a lot of weight, and sometimes they’re overrated.

“It can work quite well for students to engage in a dialogue with their teacher and talk about what they have learned and what kinds of things they can show that demonstrate their learning,” she said in an interview.

“That dialogue then, is another chance for them to engage in the learning process itself, because they’re learning to advocate for themselves, they’re learning to articulate the learning that has taken place within themselves.”

Carol Rolheiser, director at the Centre for Teaching Support and Innovation at the University of Toronto, says that when students receive consistent feedback from teachers and peers throughout the school year, they tend to perform better.

“Saying, ‘Based on that feedback, what do I need to do differently in the future? What are the areas of strength? What are the areas I need to improve?’, that’s the cycle we want to get at,” Rolheiser said.

But, she said, ultimately she feels that assigning a grade should be the teacher’s responsibility.

Some of the teachers have been skeptical too, Kardash noted, adding that they’ve slowly been coming around to the idea.

“I think a few of them thought that maybe I hit my head playing football a few too many times,” said Kardash, a former Toronto Argonauts player. But by the start of this school year, after a few professional development sessions, he estimated that about a fifth of the school’s teachers are in favour of the change.

Bringing parents onboard, however, was a different story.

“I was told that there were Facebook groups out there that were critical of me, and saying that they weren’t going to let their kids go to Mayfield and whatnot, and that’s normal. You’ve got to expect that to happen when there’s no information,” he said.

Kardash said that once he informed parents about the program’s merits, they started wondering why their kids wouldn’t be able to continue with the program throughout their entire high school careers.

“I had some parents in the school today because we had a Grade 9 bring-your-parents-to-school day, and that was one of the questions: If I have a son and he thinks he deserves a 95, and the teacher says he only deserves a 72?” Kardash said.

If that happens, the teacher will have the final say, but there will be an appeal process if the student really thinks the teacher was wrong, he said.

Willard-Holt said she doesn’t think many of those discrepancies will happen.

“I’ve actually had some experience in having students talk about their grades with me, and for the most part, I find that they’re pretty tough on themselves,” she said.

Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

South Okanagan curling team sweeps into BC Games

Team consisting of Summerland and Penticton players qualifies for the BC Games

Interior Health managers voice discontent

Negative comments about work culture aimed at CEO Chris Mazurkewich.

Penticton hospital fourth busiest in the region for opioid overdose

Incarceration and residential treatment could be adding to the number of deaths… Continue reading

Video: Bulky bobcat goes for a stroll

Bob Lindley shared a video of a sneaky bobcat strolling through his yard in Vernon.

Students frustrated by UBCO response to harassment allegations

Kelowna - Students were unaware of resources on campus

OK Falls pot shop vandalized a week after opening

Windows were smashed Wednesday evening and spray paint called the owner a “goof” and a “pedo”

WestJet appeals lost bid to scrap harassment lawsuit

Airline argues judge was wrong to have dismissed the company’s application to strike the legal action

Can U.S. border guards search your phone? Yes, and here’s how

Secretary of homeland security explains a new policy that let’s border guards check phones

‘Beautiful writer’ Nancy Richler dies of cancer in Vancouver hospital

Montreal-born author spent most of her adult life in B.C. as a fiction writer and novelist

B.C. commuters vote to rename bus service to ‘Jeff’

The company asked and the people of Facebook answered

EDITORIAL: With harassment allegations, students deserve better at UBCO

The lack of communication with students isn’t good enough for the Kelowna campus

Physical altercation turns to online threats in Celista

Police were called to a Shuswap ice rink after a group of men physically fought each other

Arson suspect heads to court

Vernon man suspected of starting a string of 2014 fires in Vernon

Opinion: Dare to be smarter

Just say no works for more than just substance abuse

Most Read