Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Grading by choice

I came back from the meeting today thinking about how I can change grading in my class in order to improve communication to the students and the parents. I checked my email to find to message regarding this same subject. A student wrote, "i would like to find out if there is anything i can do in your class to improve my grade. if there is please write me back i would greatly apreciate it." I received an email from a parent of another student that said, " mr. holman I am trying to see if there is a way for her to earn extra credit or something to help raise her grade in math." Is there a need to change the way in which we grade or is there a greater need to change the perception of what a grade means?

13 comments:

  1. Great comments! I also came away questioning how I grade in a resource class. What exactly am I trying to teach my kids? Is it responsibility? Is it the content? Or is it both plus many other things? Lost to think about.

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  2. Grades. I like the idea that they should be an aid in learning, not a distraction. My main question is how do we communicate to parents our desire that grades do not represent the same thing they did when parents were in school? I would love to hear how we can as a school push to make grades do what Tony was saying. Does it happen because a large number of teachers all say the same thing (Back-to-school night, conferences, etc) or does it happen one teacher at a time, one class at a time? I'm willing to go that direction, bbut will administration back me on my decision? I guess I have more questions than answers at this point...

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  3. What a great question you are posing at the end of your long day! I think grading needs to go in both directions. One, we need to reassess what we assign and grade. What truly are our essential learnings we want kids to come away from our class with? Two, we need to help the kids become less focused on grades and more on the process of becoming life long learners. If we can turn around the kids, I believe they can help assist in turning the parents. After all, won't they one day be in their parents shoes?

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  4. I think that the parents and the kids have to be convinced at the same time. It may be easier to convince a kid that a grade is not important because they only think short term. Parents may have more trouble with the grade not meaning anything, especailly honors parents, looking ahead to how the college will view these changes.

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  5. I think grades take away from students excitement to learn. They want to make sure they make their desired grade and that's it. It doesn't push them to learn more it just pushes them to make the grade.

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  6. "How can I get a higher grade?" Learn more and learn better! I always have students who claim (probably truthfully) that they studied for a test, but still didn't do well. Usually, even though they study the night before, they simply don't know the material as well as they should. Encourage the learning; watch the grade increase.

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  7. I agree Jessica! It is quite a challenge to change the conversation with kids and parents, and yet what a difference when you can. When it comes to change, think about how long they've/we've been in that old place in our thinking about assessment. It's going to take time to retrain ourselves and them. I feel our conversation will need to be where and how do we begin and, like Tony, will happen in increments of change. It begins with what do we value and how can we express it.

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  8. I believe that categorizing our grades so that they mean more to our students is a very good idea. To accomplish this I would merely have to develop those categories. I don't believe that it would change my overall grades. It will take more time but overall it would give our students much more information. I do not believe in the fact that we should let students turn assignments in on their own time. Part of my job as a public educator is to teach these kids responsibility. We are often the last person they will come in contact with that has a chance of teaching them this. If I let students turn assignments in whenever they want I am sending a horrible message. This message will come back to bite them time and time again in their futures. I know that students leave my class knowing the importance of meeting deadlines and being responsible for their actions. I am looking forward to creating categories that then allow the information that I post on IC to give them more feedback about what they have learned!

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  9. I commented on this briefly in class, but this conversation makes me question the purpose and consequences of posting grades. I know that eliminating the posting of grades wouldn't entirely resolve the problem, but it would help students and parents focus on the holistic grade rather than obsess over point after point. I recognize that posting has its benefits, such as keeping open lines of communication with parents, but perhaps we could focus on comments instead of numbers (such as the comments in the drop-down menu, like "Needs to make up work" or "Good participation"). Just a thought.

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  10. It's funny how the grade is just the means to an end. I too like the idea of categorizing our grades so that they mean more. I agree with Jesse wholheartedly-I too beleive that teaching responsibility and accountability are important for students and I hold strong to my no late work policy. Letting kids turn in work later shows them that they can just sluff off my class and they won't be penalized; plus, it's not fair for the others who are getting their work in. Maybe through us, as a whole entity, we can stress the importance of LEARNING rather than just receiving a grade.

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  11. I have to say, that i walked away with a variety of thoughts on grades, grading, and what they mean to both me and my students. I think our biggest obstacle is society. Our society expects things in a time efficient manner. Students/parents/society expect good grades, what we don't focus on is the process that this takes. School is a learning process that take work and dedication, its not just handed to you. I think that is our greatest challenge, showing and teaching the process not the outcome. Although our system, just looks at the final outcome! (my head hurts just thinking about it)

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  12. I believe that we are headed in the wrong direction if we are expecting less from the students in the area of responsibility. We need to be careful that we are not so eager to change that we do so without considering the ramifications.

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  13. I agree with McBride about the process, not the outcome, being the most important concept. I also agree that convincing students and parents of this is extremely difficult. I constantly battle this issue, particularly in my 9th grade honors classes. Today, in fact, I had several students ask if they could have worksheets that they completed for points. In an honors class!!! (I was tempted to ask if they would like smiley faces on their worksheets along with gratifying +15/15 marks in bright red pen, but I refrained.) Before I could even launch into a response about the process, not the outcome, a number of other students in the class responded vehemently against the worksheet idea, saying that they liked the fact that worksheets and the like were not part of the class, and that they thought the reading-based discussions helped them understand the applications of the material better than worksheets ever could. Interestingly, it wasn't just students with the highest grades who were in the latter group.

    I think that next year I need to put a statement about grades on my syllabus. A draft might look like this: "The teacher of this course views student grades as part of a larger scholarly process, not merely an outcome in and of itself. A grade at any particular point during the semester must be viewed as feedback and as a mark of progress toward large goals. Many students will find this course challenging, and will find that simply focusing on an overall class grade will create undue anxiety. The course is designed to challenge students to work on skills and analytical thinking, and much of that will not come together until near the end of the semester. As previous students have discovered, too much emphasis on their overall class grades at the 6-week and 12-week marks often has the effect of ruining the experience of U.S. History."

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