Grading for Learning (Part III)
As a brief review, this is "Part III" in a three-part blog series on Grading for Learning. "Part I" challenged readers to ask four key questions about grading practices:
Why do I assign grades to student work?
What purpose should student grades serve?
What elements should I use in determining student grades?
How can I best represent student learning in my grading?
"Part II" dug deeper into two counterproductive grading practices related to homework and extra credit.
Today’s post, "Part III", will take a look at two additional areas of grading: Academic Dishonesty and Late Work.
As has been discussed previously, I, like many teachers, developed grading practices in my first classroom based largely on what other teachers around me were currently doing. Perhaps it was my cooperating teacher during student teaching, perhaps it was the teachers I had in school, or it might have been a mentor teacher assigned to me during my first year in the classroom. Regardless, I ended up employing a policy related to academic dishonesty that was very common amongst teachers. If a student was caught cheating on an assignment or plagiarizing the work of another, they relinquished all credit and were not afforded an opportunity to complete a make-up assignment. It is clear to me now that my policy was punitive and made the behavior and consequence more important than the learning.
What I failed to do as a teacher was understand that cheating is a behavior and should be met with behavioral consequences. Independent of that process is my concern as a teacher about the academic standing of the student. By giving the student a zero I am essentially saying that it is no longer important for me to gather feedback on the proficiency level of said student.
If I could go back and have a conversation with my first-year-teacher self, I would share that a more appropriate response would be to assign behavioral consequences and then reinforce the importance of the learning by requiring the student to complete an alternate assessment only, of course, after they have proven to me that they have done the requisite practice and learning. This emphasizes the skill and/or content we are assessing and still addresses the behavioral choice.
These two topics align very well with one another as the emerging responses to both are very similar. As I mentioned in Part I of this blog series, I believed that if a student submitted work after my pre-determined deadline their academic score should be lowered, so I would subtract credit from late work, sometimes to the point of awarding no credit. What I realize now is that it was more important in my mind “when” my students were learning as opposed to “if” they were learning. I was holding them accountable for their ability or willingness to comply with my schedule, failing to take into account the many factors that might impact why an assignment is late and, more importantly, disregarding the importance of the actual practice or learning I was asking them to demonstrate.
I often hear from folks that one of our jobs is to teach students accountability and responsibility and, while I don’t disagree, I believe there are ways for us to accomplish that task without penalizing them academically. One such way is for us to record and report on a student’s non-academic factors such as attendance, behavior, and responsibility separate from their academic proficiency.
For some great information on this topic I encourage you to watch this two-part video series from Rick Wormeli:
In addition to the four key questions listed above I would encourage all teachers to think about the difference between 'grading' and 'feedback'. Despite what our first thought might be, the truth is that these two concepts are very different and depending on which one we choose as our purpose can result in very different processes when assessing and reporting student learning.
As I have before I strongly encourage all RPS teachers to review the document below, which outlines the Purpose of Grading at the secondary level in our district.
There are some great conversations to be had and, as you know, I am always happy to engage in those conversations. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions you might have.
This post brought to you by Brandon Macrafic, POSA focusing on Career & College Readiness and administrator at CTECH
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