“No marks? Sweet! Maybe we can learn something now!” exclaimed one of my English 11 learners the other day after the class voted unanimously to embark on a full unit of activities, assignments and compositions that would not have numbers attached to them. Prior to this decision, there was much lively discussion in my English classes about the differences between formative and summative assessment and also what problems they think we will encounter in this “marks-less unit” because of our marks-centric student body. Helen Timperley, in Realizing the Power of Professional Learning, stresses that in educational settings where there are competing theories, “resistance is more likely to arise because competition between theories of practice immediately becomes an issue for many of those participating” (page 154). Can teachers in a school that ranks as the top public school in British Columbia be motivated to change their practices with assessment seeing as all outside indicators have promoted the school as being academically superior? Along with this ranking comes various value judgements from the public; from parents and from students themselves that somehow the teachers at the school are in some way better here than elsewhere. As a result of all this ego-polishing, why would any teacher at my school want to radically change his or her practice? Everyone seems to be telling us we’re all doing something right.
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