The other day I was pondering the benefits of tests, quizzes and grades. Things that school aged kids are far too familiar with.

Evaluation is at the core of school curricula. Whether it comes in the form of standardized tests or subjective teacher evaluations, going to school means getting a grade. Currently, the impetus is on the teacher, who teaches the class, determines a success metric, and designs the test. This leaves the child always a step behind. It is on the child to figure out exactly what the teacher/school system wants, and try to deliver it. This school system navigation is often referred to as ‘playing the game of school’. And, to varying degrees of success, students try to figure out the rules of the game in order to get a grade.

What if we could switch the power in the relationship, giving students the ability to design the metrics and evaluations?

My mind is pulled to the business world, where, if you want a raise or promotion, it is often on you, the employee, to state your case. I’d love to see kids sit down in a one on one meeting with their teacher, and try to convince the teacher they earned a grade.

“Look here, I crushed this finger painting project, not only making an impressive art piece but also teaching my technique to other classmates.”
“Also, in class I was mostly well behaved, I only instigated one food fight.”
“I delivered my macaroni necklace on time, and it was fully functional.”
“So, Ms. Teacher, you can see from my work that I clearly deserve an A- in your class”

And the teacher could reply:
“Well, Jonny, you also dropped the ball when it was your week to feed the class hamster, Billy had to step up and fill in.”

These business meetings would cause student evaluation to become a conversation as opposed to a one sided decision. Hopefully, students would think about which projects proved their knowledge gain. Maybe, they would begin to focus on the importance of documentation, as it could benefit a student to bring in examples of their work to present to a teacher. This entire exercise forces kids to be more engaged with their education.

Perhaps we don’t want all of our kids to become cold, hard negotiators, but I think that opening up an avenue for conversation regarding evaluation could change the game. Putting power into the hands of the learner hopefully changes how the student views school. Once school and learning shift from passive to active, we have a chance that kids will hold on to this learning mentality as they grow, both in and outside of the classroom.

Header photo ©
Body photo ©