The line of thought I'm following goes something like this...
- Powerful Learning Environments are those which are student-centered and facilitate the acquisition of knowledge and skills in all students. They represent a response to recent changes in society which expect that every student will achieve a high level of literacy, thinking skills, and the ability to regulate and communicate learning. These characteristics of these environments are also related to new learning about how the brain learns. Student motivation and learning are connected to and affected by these environments.
- Motivation toward achievement can take one of two basic pathways: performance or mastery. A person or environment geared toward performance is one of normative comparisons. Performance goals are not associated with deep learning or metacognition. Mastery goals are criterion-referenced and are associated with patterns of learning that are adaptive. Although most people have a dominant type of personal achievement goal, these can be influenced by the situation/context a person is experiencing---such as how a teacher structures his/her classroom practices.
- One practice teachers impose on the classroom environment is grading. These practices can foster either a mastery or performance goal approach, but little is known about the impact this has on students, especially adolescents. Adolescence is a time when many people begin to differentiate between "ability" and "effort" and this can alter their personal approach to school. Most elementary school aged children have a mastery goal orientation, but the performance environment which has a greater presence starting in middle school may be part of the reason that students begin to disconnect from school at this time. It's possible that those teachers which continue to foster a mastery-oriented environment through their grading practices help students stay connected with learning and have higher-achieving students.
Right now, everything still feels a bit unwieldy. It makes sense in my head, but pulling everything into one neat little package is not so simple. I hope to make a good run at it in the next few weeks and then just take the fall to revise and add details. It would be nice to get this project off the ground.