Writer Mark Barnes was kind enough to send us an excerpt from his upcoming book! Enjoy!
Not too long ago, after nearly two decades as a classroom teacher, I was ready to walk away from education. A particularly tough group of students made me feel like a failure. I knew most of them learned little or nothing in an entire school year, so I wondered why I should continue. That summer everything changed. I decided to return to my classroom the following year, but things were going to be different. I threw out literally every method I’d used in my career. Rules and consequences disappeared, along with homework, worksheets and number and letter grades. I created what I call a Results Only Learning Environment, or ROLE. The transformation was remarkably successful. Following is a brief excerpt from the book I’ve written on results-only learning, ROLE Reversal.
“The girl I’ll call Sasha was off to a rough start in her seventh grade year. The first grading period saw very little from Sasha. She completed roughly one-third of one major language arts project and did nothing on a second. Asked to review material covered on a web-based diagnostic tool, so she could retake it and improve her poor score, once again Sasha did not produce. In-class activities were done haphazardly, with little attention to detail. Feedback from the teacher, for the most part, was ignored.
“At the end of the marking period, it was time for reflection, self-evaluation and a final grade. I met with Sasha, as I did with every student, and we discussed her production. When I asked Sasha for her thoughts, she admitted that the results were not what she had hoped for. She gave no excuses. Because the administration at the middle school where I teach mandates that teachers assign quarterly grades, I told Sasha that a formal grade had to go on the report card. This was a new concept, because there were no points, percentages or grades on any activity for the entire first nine weeks of school in our class.
“ ‘So put a grade on your production for Quarter One,” I said. Tears rolled down Sasha’s face, a heart wrenching sight, as I hated to see her punished by a grade. In between sobs, her chin resting weakly on her chest, Sasha whispered, “I guess it has to be an F.” When I asked if she was certain, Sasha nodded affirmatively. At this moment I realized that a Results Only Learning Environment would forever change how I taught and how my students learned. The roles were reversing. Students were assessing their own learning, and their self-evaluations were providing me with the information I needed to create better learning opportunities in my classroom. Education was changing into something truly revolutionary.
“One grading period later, Sasha was up to a C, and she continued to progress throughout the year. She is one of dozens of examples of students who have thrived in a unique classroom that ignores the fundamental methods that teachers across America use daily – worksheets, homework, multiple-choice tests, rewards and punishments and a standard grading system. This book will share many examples of students like Sasha, who have taken charge of their own learning and assessment in what I call a Results Only Learning Environment. This transformative approach to teaching is based on research, theory and practice of people like, Daniel Pink, Alfie Kohn, Steven Krashen and Donalyn Miller. Although these authors and educators are referenced in several places throughout the book, most evidence of the effectiveness of results-only learning is based on my own practical experience and the almost uncanny success of my students.”
Later chapters of ROLE Reversal explain the student-centered, project-based learning approach of the ROLE. The complete elimination of rules and consequences is explored, and detailed examples of year-long projects and narrative feedback that accompanies them are supplied. Like Sasha, students grade themselves, and they do so with frightening accuracy.