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Why Grades Are Not Enough

gradesEncouragement and recognition can be powerful educational tools. There are two major assumptions behind the hesitation to provide extra encouragement to students and why these assumptions are worth reconsidering:

Shouldn’t grades be reward enough?

Many faculty members believe that grades are a good incentive. The question is: Which students find grades motivating?  Grades are most motivating for students that have the academic skills needed for a course and have a prior history of success.  However, for students that have not mastered the required skills or knowledge and end up in the bottom half of the class, grades can become demoralizing.

Given what we know about the extent of poor academic preparedness among incoming students, institutions committed to student success should be prepared to use additional motivators which recognize movement toward appropriate academic behaviors.  The most recent ACT College Readiness Assessment (2013) which was taken by 54% of all graduating high school seniors showed that only 26% of all students were ready for college-level English, reading, math, and science.

Shouldn’t students be self-motivated?

Yes, one hopes that the college experience results in students who are motivated and self-directed about learning.  However, students come in with different levels of motivation. Motivation is rarely seen as a fixed, inborn personality trait. In fact it is seen as one of the more alterable and changeable factors in human behavior. The question is: How is the institution helping develop motivation in students that do not know the steps and processes needed to be successful?

There has been a lot of research on the topic of developing motivation in students and there are a number of strategies. Specifically, two strategies that have been found to be useful are directly related to Starfish Kudos: 1) teaching independent learning skills and 2) giving frequent helpful and positive feedback.

Starfish Kudos are a simple, but powerful, communication tool found within Starfish EARLY ALERT™ which allows faculty or staff to provide students with encouraging feedback in an easy and scalable manner. Faculty use these to encourage students moving in the right direction, or to recognize improved or outstanding performance.

What results are we seeing?

Last year almost 270,000 Kudos were given to students.  Recognition of the value of Starfish Kudos is growing and this number represents a 236% increase in the use of Kudos over the previous year. The following two examples demonstrate how effective they can be.

At Davidson County Community College (DCCC), the use of Flags and Kudos is part of their continuous feedback process that recognizes that students need feedback early and often.  Almost 12, 000 Kudos were given out to their student in the first year and comments from students show the power of receiving them.

“Starfish is an awesome motivator for me. When I get kudos it’s like getting that pat on the back saying “you’re doing great. Keep it up.” It makes me want to keep doing my best. It’s typical for an instructor to let u know when you need to step it up but it’s just as helpful, if not more, to be told you’re doing a great job.”

Faculty want students to succeed and they often wish that they could have a manageable way to reach more of them. Starfish Kudos provides a scalable way to extend the reach of faculty and help their students develop the positive academic behaviors that lead to better outcomes.

Interested in learning more? Contact us today!