No Grades for this Start-up

One of the common complaints of a student is “When will I need to know this?” or “How does this relate to the real world?” That’s not something I ever hear in Innovation Diploma because we make it our business to work on issues, problems, and ventures that matter beyond a school project. Recently, I made a bolder, clearer ask of the iD Disney Cohort to be even better leaders of their own learning in this process of digging into work that matters. Here’s an excerpt of an email I sent them last week reminding them of the incredible work they’re engaging in during our time together and continuing to encourage public sharing, personal reflection, and goal setting/recalibration:

We’ve had a great week with the Design Sprint, and I am excited at all the potential these lovely cardboard boxes 😉 hold. A few reminders:
1. Remember, this is a start-up not a course. We don’t use grades, but we highly value feedback. Some of you have been getting an incredible amount of feedback from us because you are publicly sharing your work, already reflecting in written form, talking with us about your interests and ideas, and you are seeking opportunities to practice your innovator skills – I want that for us all this semester. It’s hard to provide feedback without guidance from you, the person in charge of your own learning. Thank you for that opportunity for us to comment on and help you with your ventures. In that spirit:
  • Make sure your Folio is up to date and you’ve completed your profile, narrative, accomplishments, goals, and five words
  • Make sure you’re reflecting on your learning either on your blog or in some other form. **Please let us know how you will go about doing this weekly reflection, so we can keep up with you and respond/provide feedback**
  • Continue to build your network by creating an online presence through twitter or via our Innovation Diploma wordpress page.
  • Set up a 15 minute (or so) time slot with Mr. A or me to talk through your goals.
2. Next Thursday, January 22nd, we have an opportunity for a couple of you to join me and Mr. Adams in some observation/ethnography work in prep for our all Cohort Flashlab with Schoen Insulation. Please let one of us know if you are interested in joining us.
Have a great long weekend!
Mrs. C

This reminder is meant to empower students and free them of the mindset that teachers or tests are what inform them as to whether or not they’ve learned the material or a particular skill.

In iD, we continue to play with and test out new ways to capture our learning and reflection, and while I don’t think we are at a point to call one tool- or set of tools – our ideal “go to,” we are making progress. The team uses Google Hangouts to communicate with each other about ideas, articles, and progress; Diigo to share collections of research; we’ve learned and used Basecamp for one project; some are beta testing Slack (thanks to John Burk) and I’ve recently rolled out Folio Collaborative as a tool for measuring growth. This tool seems to best fit our needs for right now partially because it is a tool that over 45 United States independent schools use with their faculty (real world) and because of their core values:

1. Everyone has room to grow, every year.
2. For a process to be sustainable, it has to be easy to use.
3. Personal, annual reflection should be at the heart of the process.
4. A successful process needs to be based in honest conversations and focused on growth
5. Students and peers deserve the opportunity to give feedback.

It’s infinitely easier to play the game of school than to create a new way of doing school – but this pioneering group (and I include so many influencers of iD in this group beyond just our cohort team that continue to challenge and reframe my thinking about this program) has chosen to make something different.


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