Pointless Education – An Alternative to Grades

A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of receiving some of Adafruit’s wicked new Skill Badges I though would accompany some of the topics I cover in class. Rather then give the students grades for their ability to operate the laser cutter, measure the efficiency of their solar cells or print a hub for their wind turbine, I decided to create a series of “Requirement Sheets” (like I had in Boy Scouts) that the students would use to achieve their project goals. Once they demonstrated proficiency while using the tool, they would earn a badge, NOT A GRADE. Now they do get a grade for their project, but it is not based on their ability to use the laser cutter.

You wouldn’t believe how popular this idea has become, and since making the Requirement Sheet available for the laser cutter, I have not had a single student make a mistake. This type of learning, in my opinion, is significantly more important then a grade. The students have a much greater feeling of achievement, they are truly proud of their accomplishment and they have learned a skill, not just regurgitated material onto a test.

I have to believe, that 30 years from now, when they are going through their old boxes with their kids, they will find the Skill Badges they earned in my class and remember exactly what they did to earn them.

I will be making all of my Requirement Sheets available to those who want them on Google DOCS within the next couple of days. Feel free to use and modify them to meet your needs!

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  1. Absolutely outstanding! This is very inspirational. I’ll definitely be checking out the requirement sheets. Nice picture, too!

  2. Very cool idea!

  3. This is amazing! I had a great time in Boy scouts and I’m glad it’s teaching methods are making the way into schools.

  4. I would like to suggest that there be a skill badge for those who have learned how to learn or how to teach themselves. See a book called “Independent Scholar’s Handbook: How to Turn Your Interest in Any Subject into Expertise” by Ronald Gross. There will come a time when you need to learn something and there is not a class to take. I bought the first edition and the second edition was a free pdf download from a college in Canada. I don’t seem to be able to find the link.

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