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
As a teacher, we spend the vast majority of our time educating others but often do not get the time to further our own learning. There is an amazing opportunity coming up in August that is close to home and budget friendly.
The Learning First Summer Institute is taking place on August 8 & 9 in Kasson. This is an unbelievable chance to spend two days learning and networking with local educators. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the event last year along with 70 other educators from RPS and found those two days to be some of the most informative learning in which I have been able to participate.
Over the course of the two days, you are treated to 4 different keynote speakers that are not only engaging and dynamic but also deliver important message around current educational trends and topics. The remainder of your time is spent in small group sessions that you select to best meet your learning needs.
Some of the topics from last year’s presenters included: Assessment strategies that motivate kids and help them learn, keys to a positive learning environment, building culture in your PLC’s, RTI – it’s not just about intervention but how kids respond to intervention, changing the experience of school and how to have difficult but necessary conversations.
This year’s lineup of speakers is just as impressive as last year. Keynote speakers this year include:
Myron Dueck - Vice principal and teacher with over 17 years of teaching, He has had experience in a variety of subjects in grades 3 to 12. Dueck has been a part of district work groups and school assessment committees that have further broadened his access to innovative steps taken by others.
LaVonna Roth - An internationally known brain-powered educational consultant, author and presenter. She is known for providing fun and engaging professional development specializing in neuro- and cognitive sciences to help educators better understand how the brain learns.
George Curous - A previous speaker in RPS, he has over 17 years of experience as an educator, in a myriad of roles from K-12. George speaks about meaningful change happening when you first connect to people's hearts and the importance of creating an innovative student learning environment with high engagement.
Kenneth C Williams - A former teacher, assistant principal, and principal. Kenneth is the chief visionary officer of Unfold the Soul, LLC, a company dedicated to inspiring individuals and teams to perform at the highest level. He is skilled in developing productive, student-focused learning environments.
In addition to these four amazing keynote speakers, there are an additional 14 speakers leading breakout sessions on a huge variety of topics. Last year I was able to attend 8 breakout sessions in addition to the learning from the keynotes.
Mark your calendar for August 8 & 9. You won’t be sorry that you spent two days in August at a conference once you’ve experienced this amazing event!
This post brought to you by Rebecca Mecikalski, Elementary Implementation Associate
MathBits is an online publication of the Minnesota Council of Teachers of Mathematics. I encourage you to explore it!
Below are links to a few recent postings (some middle school specific) along with some tantalizing snippets of the content of each one:
10 Favorite Math Blogs (Oct. 29, 2017)
submitted by Sara Van Der Werf, MCTM Past President
"Here are some of my favorite Minnesota Math Teacher Bloggers. You need to follow each of their blogs. They all have some fantastic things to say. (In no particular order)…"
Updated MCA Samplers and TE Items (Jan. 6, 2018)
Submitted by: Angela Hochstetter – Math Assessment Specialist, MNDOE
Ann Page – Math Assessment Specialist, MNDOE
"This article will answer the following two questions:
Highlighting Mistakes (Nov 30, 2017)
submitted by Amy Wix MCTM VP for Junior High / Middle School
“It used to be that when I handed back an assessment to my 6th graders, they would look at their score and be done. A few years back, after attending a presentation from Rick Wormeli, I revised my teaching to include standards based grading and the chance for re-assessing on any of the standards until they were met. This along with using some of the resources from Jo Boaler’s YouCubed site has helped me in my journey to promote growth mindset with my students…”
Meaningful Relationships (Oct 29, 2017)
submitted by Amy Wix, MCTM VP for Junior High / Middle School
"So how do we build those relationships with our middle schoolers? Let’s face it--their personalities can change by the hour sometimes! Here are a few things I’ve tried- some are the obvious types, others are stolen from #MTBOS folks that are so willing to share…"
This post brought to you by Carol Lucido, the K-8 District Math Coordinator
What if we knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that a particular practice would increase student learning in a profound way? What if this practice had no price tag and was readily available to teachers at all sites? What if we already had time set aside in our calendar to devote to this practice? This exists: we know what to do, it costs us nothing, and we have time set aside to do it.
The practice I am talking about is the powerful practice of developing and giving a common formative assessment, and then analyzing the collected data in Professional Learning Communities.
A Snapshot of How This Might Look in Practice:
My PLC teammate and I meet to discuss what we will be teaching and assessing coming up. We agree to focus on the Prioritized Learning related to creating a strong argument with text evidence.
We agree on a formative way to assess this skill: we’ll both use an outline format called a fishbone analysis. We decide how we're going to score it using the Proficiency Scale that aligns with the Prioritized Learning.
Individually, we both teach the lesson, give the assessment, and score our students' work.
Individually, we look for trends (areas of student success, student struggle, pockets of students who have excelled, pockets of students who seem to have really struggled, etc). Then, we each collect a high, medium. and low example of student work to bring to a future PLC meeting.
Together, we bring our student work to the table and analyze collective trends using our Proficiency Scale.
We create a reteaching and reassessment plan, as well as decide how we're going to continue to challenge those students who have already found success.
We repeat the process. Focusing on the plan created in 'Step F', we loop back to 'Step G.' Eventually. we bring student work back together again and look for new trends, improvements that still need to be made, or additional needs that have arose. The cycle continues until the whole class has mastered this Prioritized Learning and/or until the course comes to a close at the end of the year (or semester, in some cases).
Using and analyzing common formative assessments in this way is a research-affirmed practice. PLCs who engage in this practice consistently see higher student achievement and less of an achievement gap in their classes.
If your PLC is beginning this journey or deepening your practice and would like support, please reach out to any member of the secondary Curriculum and Instruction team. We’d love to help support your work!
This post brought to you by Heather Willman, APOSA overseeing Secondary Curriculum and Instructional Coaching
"Planning and Carrying out Investigations" is one of the eight RPS Prioritized Learnings in science. This skill is essential for scientific inquiry and it requires that our students have many opportunities to gain proficiency. For many educators, allotting the time necessary for our students to reach proficiency in this scientific skill can seem daunting and prohibitive.
Many science teachers find that it is easier for students to follow prescribed procedures to "carry out investigations" as all they need do is follow the steps to obtain the results that confirm a scientific concept or theory. The same science teachers often ask, "How do I afford students the time to practice the planning part of this prioritized learning?" Teachers often skip having students plan the investigation because of the very real possibility that the student ideas for procedures will be impossible to implement due to time, materials, safety, etc..
Teachers often find that by sacrificing the planning part of the investigation, the students are more likely successfully complete the lab and see that the science works. Experience has shown us that students often contrive a procedure that will not work or cannot be competed in the school environment. When students do not come up with a workable procedure, we teachers feel that the students will be devastated by a failure.
In reality, much of the research on brain development suggests that by not allowing our students to learn from their mistakes, we are inhibiting their learning. What we need is a way to give students practice in planning experiments in a manner that is not impeded by time, materials, and/or safety.
An intriguing idea to increase opportunities for students to plan experiments is described in the book Academic Conversations-Classroom Talk That Fosters Critical Thinking and Content Understanding by Jeff Zwiers & Marie Crawford. In the chapter "Academic Conversations in Science," the authors lay out a reading activity that fosters scientific thinking, inquiry, and communication skills. The authors contend that much of what students read in science textbooks is written as statements of fact and advocate that educators use these statements of fact to increase student investigative skills. The authors suggest that student pairs design a lab experiment, or research project to support the claim(s) made in the text. The students should look for statements in the text that are testable through experiment.
For instance, two excerpts from our current high school science texts are given in the table below:
Zwiers and Crawford suggest the use of prompts to get our students engaged while reading the textbook. Engagement in and discussion around the text can be jump started with prompts such as:
For instance, in the biology example, students might design an experiment to test the diffusion of various substances across a membrane. In the chemistry example, the students might compile a list of the materials and chemicals they might use to measure the mass before and after a reaction. True, there are already laboratory experiments performed in science classrooms to support these statements but having students follow prescribed procedures without the opportunity to create their own procedure denies the student the opportunity to learn the practice of experimental design. Why not have the students design it first? The simple classroom activity described above allows the student an opportunity to read and understand scientific texts and to practice and be given feedback on the skill of planning an investigation. In some cases, after the students have designed and critiqued their own procedures, the teacher might have students follow a tried and true lab procedure that can be successfully completed in a safe and efficient way.
Many constructive conversations may arise through comparison of the students own invented procedures and the prescribed procedure. Who knows, the students might come up with a better procedure with more consistent results than the one prescribed. By having students read our textbooks we can, with multiple opportunities, help our students to become proficient in the Secondary Science RPS Prioritized Learning of "Planning and Carrying out Investigations."
This post brought to you by Dan Devine, Secondary Implementation Associate
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