Grading for Learning (Part II)
In my initial blog post 'Grading for Learning' I highlighted several counterproductive and/or destructive grading practices that I wish I had been able to avoid as a classroom teacher. Part II of this blog series will focus on two of these practices: homework and extra credit. As always, my goal is to encourage and challenge you to think about your grading practices intentionally and to ask yourself these four questions:
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?
I have completed considerable reading and research into homework: both its purpose and its effect on student learning, achievement, and engagement. Simply put, the positive effects of homework are directly tied to the age of the student and depend heavily on the purpose and alignment of the work assigned.
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:
In my opinion, there are two types of extra credit. And, for the sake of transparency: (1) I used both of them when I was in the classroom and (2) I no longer believe in the use of either of them.
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!
This post brought to you by Brandon Macrafic, POSA focusing on Career & College Readiness and administrator at CTECH
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