Karakterer Grenaa Gymnasium

Grades are motivating to some but discouraging to others

7 is indisputably a very good result, but a 3 can be an achievement for some.

“Dear friends and especially parents to our young people going to exams in these weeks. Make sure you celebrate the acheivements of those close to you regardless of what grade they achieve – a 5 for example must also be lauded!”

These were the opening words in a post on Facebook a few of weeks ago from Allan Gjersbøl Jørgensen, who teaches history and social studies at Grenaa Gymnasium. The post received many likes and positive commentaries and Allan himself was interviewed for one of the nationwide newspapers and appeared in a talkshow on national television. In other words: His Facebook post hit an issue that many could relate to and found important to discuss.

Allan Gjersbøl Jørgensen is of the opinion that the majority of posts from proud parents about their childrens exams are mostly celebrating top grade achievements and this is creating a one-sided idea of what a good achievement is. “In the real world the majority of students do not get top grades. Plenty of students achieve grades in the middle or lower range and my point here is that they too can be major achievements if they took a lot of hard work and dedication from the students. If that is the case, parents should not hesitate to say and show that they are pleased,” says Allan Gjersbøl Jørgensen. “We should teach our youngsters that a middle range grade can deserve as much praise and acknowledgement as a top grade, if the student has improved from a lower range grade.”

The courage to make mistakes

At Grenaa Gymnasium Allan Gjersbøl Jørgensen is not the only one holding this view. Both colleagues and Head of School Helene Bendorff Kristensen share it with him. “We have observed the tendency also known at other upper secondary schools that a growing number of students focus too much on their grades and what their class mates might think of them if what they say is not perfect. They tend to forget that it is through trial and error that one improves one’s knowledge and skills,” says Helene Bendorff Kristensen. “Therefore we have decided that the first year STX students in the next school year will only receive the grades that are mandatory by law. These are marks for general proficiency once during the spring term and end of year marks.”

This does of course not mean that the students are not expected to improve. “Their progress will still be continuously evaluated, but in a way that encourages and support the student in focusing on his or her learning process – that it is all about practicing. “What did you do well in this assignment and how can you improve the next one.” This kind of formative evaluation is not new to our teachers. Most of them already do it. But many of them experience again and again that the grade itself distract the students from the guidance intended to help them improve,” Helene Bendorff Kristensen explains.

“The intention of reducing the frequency of summative evaluation during their first year is to teach them to focus more on learning in every lesson and less on the end result. If we succeed in this there is a good chance that more students will accomplish according to their academic potential.”

Helene Bendorff Kristensen further explains that the idea to have a first year with almost no grades comes from other upper-secondary schools. Some of them have carried out experiments with classes not receiving grades at all. Grenaa Gymnasium, however has decided not to go this far.