In my fifteen years in the classroom, I did manage to stumble upon a few time-saving ideas that didn’t compromise student learning; however, in my current role as an Implementation Associate I’ve seen many more than I’d have ever come up with on my own. My five favorites are noted below.
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Mindfulness Series for Educators
PD915 — meets Tuesdays (4:15-5:30)
This class will help you establish or continue a formal mindfulness practice and incorporate mindfulness into your daily personal and professional life. It will consist of readings, writing, discussions, videos, and guided mindfulness practice. While every class will include a strategy for how to bring mindfulness to the classroom with your students, the primary focus will be on your own personal development of mindfulness which needs to be established before you can authentically bring it to your students.
PD937 — meets Wednesdays (4:15-5:00)
This class is for beginners and those experienced with mindfulness practice. Each class will begin with a 10-20 minute guided mindfulness exercise followed by a 20 minute discussion
Grading for Learning (Part II)
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?
As you may remember from the first post of this blog series, I used to assign homework to my German students based upon what workbook pages were linked to the textbook pages we had covered that day in class. Seemed simple and purposeful enough at the time, which it very well could have been for some of my students. Had I stopped for even a minute to think about the differing levels of understanding amongst my students I would have realized that some of my students were not ready to complete those assignments on their own, at home, and/or with a parent/guardian who likely didn’t speak or read German. I also had students who were advanced enough in their learning that the work I was assigning was a simple compliance task and took time away from learning that was likely more important for them at the time. Additionally, the feedback I provided was simply nonexistent. I was more concerned about if students completed their homework and paid little attention to their demonstrated learning or to identifying gaps in my own instruction.
So what would I suggest to teachers questioning the validity of their homework assignments? I think there are a handful of things you can do and you might even select more than one of these ideas to implement:
- Customize homework assignments to student proficiency levels. In addition to your traditional “on-pace” homework assignments, identify practice work that would be ideal for a student who is already proficient in the task at hand, working in application and extension. At the same time identify practice work that supports students who have not yet demonstrated proficiency. This will instantly make homework more meaningful for your students and will provide you with more accurate feedback on all students.
- Limit homework assignments to only those that have direct purpose and impact on student learning. If the assignment is not likely to provide you or the student with meaningful feedback, let it go.
- Reduce the quantity/length of assignments students are asked to complete. A student doesn’t need 40 long division problems to demonstrate that they either have or have not reached a level of proficiency…5 should be sufficient.
- Don’t grade it! This is becoming increasingly more common in classrooms around our district and other districts. Homework is practice and should not come with a consequence, either positive or negative, that affects an academic grade. If you are concerned about students not completing their homework if it isn’t graded, simply make practice work required in order for students to take a summative assessment.
- Don’t assign it! Specifically prior to grade 9 there is no definitive research that shows that homework increases student achievement. Additionally there is no research that shows it teaches responsibility and/or accountability. If used as pure practice and if it results in meaningful feedback for the student it certainly has its place in the classroom. If not, it is imperative that we revisit the why.
- Random – This type of extra credit includes additional projects or tasks that students can complete outside of the regular classroom instruction or assessment. This would include awarding academic credit for bringing a box of tissues to class, attending a cultural event or performance and writing a report on the experience, etc.
- Add-ons – This type of extra credit includes enrichment or expansion added to already existing formative or summative assessments. An optional challenge question on a test would be a good example of add-on extra credit.
My suggestion for extra credit if far more straightforward than for homework. I believe that if the content and/or learning is important and purposeful it should be a part of your required formative or summative assessment. If not, then we shouldn’t be awarding academic credit for it.
As always, I am more than happy to discuss these and other topics related to grading and reporting with anyone interested in the topic. Please look for Part III of the 'Grading for Learning' blog series, which will be posted in late February: I'll be discussing academic dishonesty and late work!
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