How to stop talking about ‘target grades’ and start improving results

Target grades sometimes set unnecessary barriers to achievement. Here’s how to switch up the dialogue and see your child go further than they dreamed.

Target grades: Young student raises hands triumphantly while looking at a laptop in library setting

Back in the ‘Old School’, people would talk about ‘A-grade students’. The label was supposed to be worn with pride, but what happened if those students didn’t reach their target? And what about those not adorned with the same expectations?

When you set a target grade, you propose that that is the result the student should be aiming for. If it’s too high and they don’t reach it, it can have damaging effects on self esteem. If it’s too low, it creates a ceiling that may prevent the student from pushing further.

Depending on the school, target grades can be given as either the average progress target or a “challenge” where extra grades are added. But in all instances, these are based on the data that has gone before – who wants to be defined by where they’ve been? I don’t!

Here, we work on floors – not ceilings

That’s why at TeachAllAboutIT we work on floors, not ceilings (even if it does feel like I’m climbing up the walls at times!). Instead of working to target grades, we work on making improvements. This ensures that we don’t set an endpoint on what can be achieved – instead, we encourage continual learning and focus on positive progress. By marking the amount of progress our students often find that they’re working at far higher levels that they expected because they may not know until the end of the lesson what level that work was.

The two most important questions that I ask at the end of each tuition session are:

Did you learn something new?

Where shall we go next?

Even if schools are talking about target grades, at home you can foster positive progress by changing the language you use. Here are some simple switches you can make:

Instead of asking if your child is hitting their target ask…

  • Have you learnt anything new?
  • Do you feel happier with the topic?
  • Is there anything else you’d like to know?

Instead of asking ‘have you been studying?’ ask…

  • ‘Where would you like to look for help?’
  • ‘What did you learn this week?’

Instead of only asking about success at exam times…

  • Ask regularly ‘what made you proud this week?’
  • Celebrate the small wins
  • Reinforce that learning is about taking baby steps
  • Remember that mistakes are good!

Learning to Fly!

One of the terms often used in teaching for measuring progress is a flight path. This is the expected progress students will make as they travel along their educational journey. These are

Thinking of a student’s learning as a flight path, we want to see them climbing and occasionally horizontal, but never descending. Maintaining a positive dialogue can make all the difference in encouraging students to reach new heights.

If your child could use some extra support to reach their personal best, TeachAllAboutIT tutors and classes are available throughout the year to help them stay on course. Get in touch if you’d like to hear more.

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