As a member of ISACS (Independent School Association of the Central States), we receive numerous informational newsletters about current trends in education. Earlier this week, I made some time to watch two of their videos on the topic of academic risk-taking and wanted to share that with you. 

The first video centered on risk-taking regarding grades. The main points were ones we’ve known at St. Francis for years; that too much of a focus on grades works more to create anxiety than actual learning or performance and the elusive “4.0” or ‘A’ on a test actually often works inversely to foster a decrease in creativity and academic risk-taking among students, as well as stress. A recent study of high school students cited that 64% admitted to cheating to get higher grades. And 80% of students tie their self-worth to high grades. Are these intrinsically motivated learners?

The second video featured a teacher who strives to model academic risk-taking for her students so that they will have the confidence to do it themselves. Showing students that a teacher is willing to try a new approach, or allow them different options to reach a learning goal, models this type of learning for them. And a central notion is that “failure” may not actually be that ugly word in the traditional sense. It instead may mean we learn from our mistakes and no doubt a lot of lessons along the way as we try out new approaches or technologies.  

What was encouraged instead was a push to get students to think for themselves, not just regurgitate information that may only be memorized on a short-term basis. Schools should work to foster a “life-long passion for learning” rather than a chase for high grades. Hearing these goals makes me smile as those have been our guiding principles as a Progressive school since inception. Our Mission: St. Francis School cultivates a joyful, compassionate, intellectual community that celebrates individuality and inspires independent thinking for life. This is a Mission that celebrates learning – not simply chasing a high GPA or “straight As.” And that is a risk we willingly embrace every single day.