Help Students Think about Learning, Instead of Grades

Students tend to stay very interested in their grades and maybe not as much in learning. The education system has created that situation, in large part, and students need faculty help to focus their thinking on learning instead of their grade. That change won’t be easy as students have many years in the grade-is-everything mindset. Here are ways to help students refocus on learning:

  • Assignments as learning opportunities. Introduce assignments by discussing the knowledge and skills required or ask students, “What might you learn by doing this assignment” and help them think through their answers.
  • Learning reflection. Early in the course, ask students to think about their desired professional and personal lives. Have them write down the skills and knowledge needed to accomplish those goals. Students make a list (worth a few points) and keep it handy. After every assignment or activity, have them write a short reflection on how this assignment or activity supports what’s on their list.
  • Evolving assignments. Require students to turn in papers and assignments in installments, providing feedback but without a grade, until the product is complete. This will help students understand the editing process.