Anastasia Hall
LTS Director of Education

The A-F Grading System Prevents Students from Learning the Value of Failure

In a traditional academic system of education that institutes an A-F or 0-100 grading system, students learn to fear failure rather than embrace the essential learning that comes from experiencing it. K-12 school is supposed to be a time of formative development for students, meaning a time of students receiving ongoing feedback as they take on tasks that stimulate the development of skills, knowledge, and sense of self. However, in the traditional grading system, students are assessed on an ongoing basis and even when feedback is given, it is irrelevant because students cannot apply it to the assessment to improve. The teacher is hoping they take this feedback and apply it going forward, but if the learning and improvement did not take place in the same assessment for which they received feedback, there are no lessons to apply forward.

Feedback only has impact when it can be directly applied to the product that is the target of the feedback. When this leads to direct action being taken, it is one of the most powerful tools inside of a classroom. But, it only has a positive impact when there is a culture of feedback in the classroom, which also means a culture of embracing rather than fearing failure. If a student consumes feedback alongside a grade they cannot change, the feedback loses its intended effect. As long as students are confined to the grade they earn with no time or ability to apply the feedback they received to change that grade, their formative development during the learning process will always be limited.

Embracing and learning from failure are real skills that should be taught during this time of formative development. School should be a safe environment in which students can experience failure, identify the causes of their failure points, examine what the data around these failure points tells them, receive feedback that leads to direct action from the student to pivot from their failure, and take the actions necessary to move beyond the failure experience. If students don’t have the opportunity to learn how to fail in school, when do we expect them to learn it?

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Anastasia Hall

Anastasia Hall

LTS Director of Education

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