This semester I had all assignments be “learning experiences”. That is, the assignments were not graded in the traditional sense. When the students turned in assignments (often self created) I provided extensive feedback for them to consider as they continue to learn. Then, four times throughout the semester I met with each student individually to discuss what they’d learned so far and what they could continue to work on. During these meetings I helped students become more and more adept at self-assessing. Their final grade was self-assigned.
Why was this emotionally draining? Well, to start, this took an unbelievable amount of time. I was still providing feedback on all of the assignments as well as meeting with every student for 1/2 hour (sometimes more) at four different times throughout the semester. Also, the students fought me on this almost the entire time. Some students claimed this assessment to be “inappropriate”, others thought I was being unfair, and still others thought they could better write about their understanding, rather than verbalize it (newsflash, you can’t). Additionally, these meetings themselves were emotionally draining experiences. Several students broke down, others simply shut down. The verbal and mental finesse I had to use at times seemed mind boggling.
I am confident beyond any percentage that the students learned more this semester than last. But how long can this last?