It is very difficult to get grades
How can parents handle grades?
The idea that grades belong to school is widespread in our society. Perhaps grades are important to you too, so that you know “where you are”. At the same time, there are many critical voices. And so there are no grades at the beginning of school. Some schools even successfully do without it in higher grades. In Scandinavia, too, children study without grades for years. And so questions arise: Do we need grades? How can you handle grades?
Here are a few considerations on this:
What are the advantages of grades?
Notes can be written and read comparatively quickly. They show you whether or to what extent the performance of your child corresponds to the existing criteria and whether it is more in the middle of the class or above or below it. Grades are used worldwide when it comes to allocating school or university places. Above all, however, notes have a long tradition.
What are the disadvantages of grades?
Notes are poor in information
You cannot tell from a grade what your child can do and what he cannot yet, what is easy or difficult for him or her and what could help him.
Grades are not objective
Not only in German, but also in mathematics, grades are not objective. Studies repeatedly show that the same performance can be graded very differently. One of the reasons for this is that different teachers have different criteria.
Grades are not comparable
Your child's performance will be graded differently in a high performing class than a low performing class. Teachers are also often influenced by external things when grading, such as handwriting.
Grades are problematic for self-motivated learning
Grades distract from the content and your own learning progress. Those who only learn because of their grades do not delve into interest and do not learn sustainably.
Grades are problematic for the well-performing and the under-performing
Repeatedly bad grades are problematic for motivation in children who have made an effort. Even very high-performing children do not necessarily develop their strength further in view of the already good grades.
Grades encourage competition
Anyone who helps others in the class may ensure that there are a lot of good performances, so that one's own achievements are no longer anything special, and ultimately cut themselves into their own flesh. So, looking at the grades, it “makes sense” not to help others. Classmates become competitors.
Grades often involve cheating and hiding
Those who cannot or do not honestly want to achieve the expected grades will find many ways of cheating. Children often hide bad grades at home or lie to their parents.
What do these advantages and disadvantages mean for you?
The few advantages and the many disadvantages of grades make it clear that it would be unwise for you, as a parent, to emphasize grades from the start. Only when it comes to graduation does it make sense to point out the importance of grades for obtaining a study or training position. Before graduation, grades are “only” relevant for promotion or non-promotion. However, this addresses a completely different, new topic, which is left out here for reasons of space.
How do you deal with the initial feedback with no grades?
At the start of school, children don't get grades, but feedback, for example in the form of smileys or written instructions (“Great!” - “Well done!” - “That has become much clearer! Make sure you write the first letters below each other.”). The certificate is also initially without numerical censorship and contains descriptions of learning and behavior (“Lea works determinedly and persistently on her tasks”). Through the various feedbacks, you and your child will learn something about the quality of his work ("Leon always shows creative solutions") or about his learning progress ("Marcello was able to significantly improve his spelling skills"). In doing so, your child learns to assess the quality of their services themselves. They practice accepting and implementing criticism (“Please use a ruler to cross out”). There is no comparison with the other children in the class.
If your child gives you positive feedback, this is of course a cause for joy. If, on the other hand, it shows you negative feedback, you can first of all praise the fact that your child shows you this at all. But maybe you ask first or try to feel: How are you doing with this feedback? Additional criticism is then hardly to be recommended. Rather, it is about considering how learning can be more successful.
How can you react to the first notes?
In the course of primary school, your child will usually bring the first graded work home with them. When this is exactly depends on the respective federal state. There are generally no grades in the first year of school. Then the question arises for you: How do you want to react to the grades? It will probably be important to you, on the one hand, to strengthen and support your child and, on the other hand, to encourage them to learn and work and ultimately to successfully graduate from school. But how can this be achieved? The following considerations can help:
- Don't take the notes too seriously! What really matters is whether the child has learned something new.
- Do not reward grades with money. The idea of “money for good grades” becomes particularly difficult when siblings come to school or when the question arises of how grades in German and sports should be offset.
- Ask your child whether they are satisfied and how they feel about the result they have achieved.
- Make up your own mind: Is the child missing crucial points in a piece of work because they overlooked or mixed up something? Or does he lack central knowledge and skills?
- Think about what works and what works less and what can be done better next time.
- Don't ask about the class average and the grades of others. Especially in the case of a good grade, the joy should not be diminished by the fact that others were also successful.
- Comfort your (younger) child in case of a bad grade. After a failure, it doesn't need any further criticism, but a hug and the hint that it can get better next time. Young people, on the other hand, must also learn that little effort can lead to poor results.
- Encourage and support your child if, despite exertion, they are unable to achieve better grades.
- Do not try to help your child with ostensibly exonerating hints. The statement “I was never able to do math” or “Well, guys and writing, that's just difficult” may be well-intentioned, but they can also be bad and prevent development.
Do you remember how you fared in school earlier? How did your parents react when you brought home good or bad grades? Which reactions did you find helpful and which not? - It is always important to rethink your own school biography and also to check whether you are not simply adopting previously observed behavior without looking. A mother once stated with a shock: "I asked my daughter: 'Can't you ONCE copy something properly without making mistakes ...?" Suddenly I heard my own mother again with my sentence, with exactly the same intonation and the same loud voice. That really scared me. "
Should you practice especially for tests and classwork?
Many parents practice with their children especially for tests and class work ("We still have to practice "). Perhaps you are also considering doing this? But what are you signaling to your child? They show him that in school it is ultimately important to get good grades. They don't show that it's important to develop and learn. To do this, you would have to ask your child independently of tests and classwork: Were there new and exciting insights at school? Has something remained unclear?
Practice specifically for tests: possible negative consequences
If school learning is primarily geared towards tests, then it is not sustainable. Interest and motivation from the matter can only develop with difficulty. During puberty, things can get really difficult at school. If there is now no personal interest in learning and external expectations in this regard are rejected due to development: How should willingness to make efforts for school tasks arise? Learning for class work in higher grades also reaches its limits if, for example, three papers are written in one week.
It can also happen that children who work from test to test and whose families talk a lot about the next class test, lose composure. One teacher reported: "When I was taking fourth grade for the first time, I noticed how difficult it was for some when a paper was to be written. One girl was crying even before work. So I asked the children whether I should actually announce the work or not. The children finally voted: I shouldn't announce the work any more. The reasons were: So that the parents cannot know when we are going to write a job. So that the parents don't make us nervous. That affected me very much. "
With a view to the school leaving certificate, learning specifically for exams makes perfect sense. But before that, and especially in elementary school, it is completely unsuitable. In addition, by practicing for class work at home, you may also be signaling to your child that you have little confidence in him. Ultimately, you show him that you think your child cannot cope with school without you.
Instead of control and interference: Interest is important
And now? You may find it difficult to hold back on graded work. It is very possible that you will hear from all sides how people still practice and study for tests at home. You also don't want to miss anything and do what is best for your child. But what is the best?
That is a difficult question to answer. But what you can do: Control less and show more interest in the progress and the content. And: Handing over the responsibility for their learning to the child more and more. Stand by if you have any questions, but do not interfere.
You can be sure: in the long term, sustainable learning from an internal drive will prove to be superior to selective and externally induced practice. The parent-child relationship will also win if you show little control and a lot of interest.
Reading literature for parents
- Kohler, B. (2019). Let through elementary school. Answers to the 55 most important parenting questions. From A for attention to Z for testimony. Weinheim: Beltz.
Reading literature for teachers
- Brügelmann, H. (2013). The hardship with the notes. Education & Science, 12, 15-19.
- Kohler, B. (2019). Giving Oral Grades: Possible Solutions to a Complex Problem. School magazine 5-10, 87 (3), 7-14.
- Kohler, B. (2014). “What grade do I get?” Assessment from the perspective of pupils. School magazine 5-10, 82 (11), 51-54.
- Kohler, B., Grimm, M., Ibach, K., Mörike, D. & Unfried, M. (2019). Oral grades in practice. Teachers present their solutions. School magazine 5-10, 87 (3), 53-57.
- Kohler, B. & Seewald, M. (2018). Honesty in school? This enables teachers to deal with the cheating and cheating of their students. School magazine 5-10, 86 (11), 7-14.
- Maier, U. (2015). Performance diagnostics in school. Bad Heilbrunn: Klinkhardt UTB.
- Sacher, W. (2014). Developing, checking and assessing services (6th edition). Bad Heilbrunn: Klinkhardt.
- Zabarowski, K. U., Meier, M. & Breidenstein, G. (2011). Assessment and teaching. Ethnographic studies on assessment practice in high school and secondary school. Wiesbaden: VS publishing house for social sciences.
Further contributions by the author can be found here in our family handbook
Prof. Dr. Britta Kohler
Dr. Britta Kohler is Professor of School Education and Senior Academic Councilor at the Institute for Educational Science at the University of Tübingen. After studying to be a teacher in Heidelberg and studying educational science, psychology and sociology in Tübingen, she received her doctorate from the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich with the dissertation “Problem-oriented design of learning environments”. In 2004 she received a prize from the German Society for Educational Science (DGfE) for a thesis in the context of her habilitation thesis “On Reception of External Evaluation”. After working at school and at various universities, she now teaches at the Institute for Educational Science in Tübingen. Her research interests currently focus in particular on homework, dealing with heterogeneity, the development of all-day schools and the different perspectives of school actors.
Prof. Dr. Britta Kohler
Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen
Institute of Education Science
School Pedagogy Department
Photo: © Britta Kohler
discontinued on January 16, 2020
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