Monday, January 20, 2014

Why our Grading Practices Suck, and What We Can Do About It

I always get excited for class (well, almost always), but I am particularly excited to meet with the pre-service teachers in my assessment course tomorrow. This week, we're exploring widely-used grading practices that just, well, suck. I'm looking forward to hearing about my students' past experiences with grades and engaging in dialogue about ways to improve our broken grading system. I don't have time for a lengthy blog post at the moment, so instead of writing a narrative post, I'm basically going to bullet out my lesson plan for class this week. I hope you'll take the time to explore the resources below, reflect on your own grading practices, and create a plan of action for using grades in less toxic ways. Feel free to adapt any of these ideas below if you're planning to facilitate a conversation about grading with colleagues. 

15 Fixes for Broken Grades

  • One-page overview
  • Agree / Disagree human continuum for each statement
  • Brief discussion around the 15 fixes -- share past experiences (positive/negative... why?)
  • Develop an argument FOR and AGAINST including these factors in grades: student behavior, reduced marks on late work, points for extra credit, reduced marks for cheating, attendance, or group scores. 

Toxic Grading Practices

  • Watch this video by Rick Wormeli (Standards-Based Grading)
    • Pause after each main point to journal and discuss
  • The Dilemma of the Zero
    • Facilitate activity 4.4 from study guide 
    • Discuss the soundness of the teacher's actions. What could the teacher have done differently? Why?
  • Watch this video by Doug Reeves (Toxic Grading Practices)
    • Discuss each toxic practice & alternative suggestions (zero, averages, semester-killer)
  • What's in a "B"?
    • Facilitate activity 2.2 from study guide 
    • Analyze list comparing what grades should tell us vs. what's actually included in grades
    • What things on either list are troubling to you? Why?

One Solution: Standards-Based Grading (SBG)

  • Video introduction to SBG
  • Reflect on article: Seven Reasons for Standards-Based Grading -- How does SBG compare to your experiences with grading as a student? What makes sense? What doesn't?
  • In groups of 2 or 3, sketch out a sample traditional grade book & a grade book using SBG
    • What's the same? different? Which method best serves the purposes of assessment and grading?
  • Virtual guest speaker to share how and why he uses SBG (David Schouweiler, teacher at Newton-Conover High School). You can view the Google Hangout with Mr. Schouweiler below.

Putting It All Together

  • Work in groups of 3 or 4 to construct a list of ineffective & effective grading practices, based on the readings, videos, and class discussions
    • 3 columns: What not to do | What to do | Why

Exit Ticket: I used to think.... Now I think.... Because....

Reflections from Pre-Service Teachers

I used to think that there was only one way to grade. Now I think that there are other ways and that there are ways to think out of the box, because standards-based grading actually grades the content that the student is learning instead of factoring in other things like tardiness and behavior.
I used to think grading was simple - just check to see if it's right or wrong. Now I think (know) that it is a lot more than that. There are so many things you have to consider because it's more than just right or wrong answers. Teachers should be more conscious when they grade. 
I used to think number grades were the easiest way to go about grading. Now I think standards-based grading is the most meaningful and smartest way to go because I feel like students will be eager to learn more and students will learn more as well.
I used to think grading was a one way thing. Now I don't because we have discussed many types of grading. 
I used to think the grading system didn't show students' true ability. Now I know what I thought is true, based on all the evidence I have learned in this class.
I used to think that percentage grading was the only way to grade. Now I think that teachers are breaking the mold, pioneering out of the norm to reach the students because of Mr. Shoe. It is amazing to see people try to start something new and have it be beneficial.
I used to think the 7-point grading scale was the only / right way to grade. Now I think nobody should use it because it isn't fair or a true representation of a grade.
I used to think grading could only be shown by numbers and percentages. Now I think that there are better ways to convey someone else's knowledge because of looking at standards-based grading. 
I used to think the standard had a just meaning. Now I think that it has no significant effect because a number cannot tell you what you are doing wrong.
I used to think grading was pretty much just like the things we talk about the "wrong ways". Now I think it is not a good representation of a student's knowledge because the "F" region is so harsh between 60 - 0. I've never given much thought into this new way. I really like it.

Other resources:

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Giving Students Choice in "Getting to Know You" Activities

Each semester, I try to get to know my students as people first and learners second. One way I get information about them as learners is through a Google Form like this one. Once I gather responses from my students on the first day of class, I can begin to adjust my teaching practices to better meet the needs of the learners in my class.

This semester, I'm teaching a course for pre-service teachers on assessment, research, and decision-making. This is my first time teaching the course, and I always get excited about teaching a new course. I'm certain that I learn more than my students the first time around. In all of my courses, I try to model effective teaching and assessment practices for the future teachers in my classroom. In this assessment course in particular, I will be emphasizing fair and meaningful approaches to assessment and instructional decision-making. For the first class meeting, I'm giving students choice in how they participate in a "getting to know you" activity. I'm fortunate to have an iPad cart to use in class and plan to use it during almost every class meeting. Many of the choices below were designed to give students time to get familiar with the iPads. However, I've also provided some non-tech options for students who would prefer to create something in a different way. I can't wait to see what they create.