Grading and Feedback

I only give grades because I have to. That’s it. The ultimate grade is after the Arena…do they get a bracelet. That’s really what it is all about. And, no one gets a bracelet until after their senior year…right before graduation…we have a bonfire at my house…we sit around…or we are in Honduras…and we have this ritual started by Anna…it started with me sharing a story about each of them…tracing out the arc of their transfiguration from our first meeting of one another until now…sitting together in a circle with one another and all of our others…this ritual evolved into each and every member of the tribe who is present in the circle taking the time to tell their own story…of the beautiful change they witnessed.

Before this moment…sometimes way before…there is the training ground…and they are new and fresh-faced and full of wide-eyed optimistic-insecurity…not really sure what they have gotten themselves into. And, it is at this moment I share the following with…the ways in which they will be graded and receive feedback from me and the rest of the tribe.

There are a number of assignments and activities throughout the semester that my students turn in. I review them, check off that they completed them, and give them feedback. Sometimes that feedback will be in numerical form (for example, 3 out of 5 points). Most of the time it will not. But, when it is, I record their score in an excel file. However, I tell them that I am not held to the scores that they have accumulated over the semester when it comes time to giving them a final grade in the class (see below). This is a non-traditional class. I only give them a final grade because I have to. And, tell them again and again, and in many formats, the following:

“This class is not about the grade. It is about the work that we are doing together. Our top priority is producing work that the client values. The work is all that matters. Ultimately, your grade will reflect your work. Your work will reflect who you are. So, who are you?”

Now, having said that, here are the ways that they receive feedback during the semester:

In-Class Check-Ins


Sometimes grading has to be up close and personal. Sometimes, I need to make my students feel their mediocrity and their second-best. I call them sit-downs: periodic meetings with students on a one-on-one basis or with their entire team. During sit-downs, we collectively review their progress and I hold them accountable. Sit-downs are also opportunities for students to seek-out support and resources. Click here to know how they feel.

360 Degree Evaluations

On two occasions during the semester (once at the midterm and once at the conclusion of the semester), each member of the tribe is scored by every other member with respect to their performance via an anonymous survey mechanism. I tell them that it is okay to be tough-minded. But, I also tell them to be warm-hearted and leave comments that they believe will move others forward or add to their momentum. I present the average scores and pre-screened (by me) comments to each member of the tribe during sit-downs at the midterm and our final sit-downs (see below), both are individual meetings.

Final Sit-Down

After 16 weeks of working together, I schedule a time for each of my students to come to my office and share their work with me. During the Final Sit Down their work will be judged, weighed and considered in the unforgiving and remorseless light of reality. Their work will reflect the choices they have made over the course of the semester. I will ask them to own them all.