An Unexpected Gift, II

I sat down to draft this post late in the afternoon on a peaceful and reflective Labor Day. By the time you read it, though, my students and I will be busy with the first “real” stretch of our teaching and learning year. There’s a “required teacher workday” on September 17, a break for them while their teachers are busy refining and developing lessons around our new, Common-Core aligned curriculum. These next few weeks, both before and after that short break, will be intense … especially for students who are making the transition from one school to another, and for teachers who are new to teaching or who are making major changes to their tried-and-true approaches.

And of course I’m in that second category – the “major changes” group. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I’m glad to know I’m not the only one! It was such a gift to be able to have that conversation with Ana, my Spanish-teacher colleague, on Friday afternoon, and it was an even greater gift to discover that we’d had similar thoughts over the weekend. Hence the title of this series of posts.

From Katherine’s comment on yesterday’s post, I was reminded that Ana and I are not the only teachers struggling with these issues of assessment and feedback and grading in a 21st-century learning environment. That was an unexpected, and much appreciated, gift as well. And a great comment by Laura Gibbs on this Google+ thread reminded me that I need to be careful not to treat assessment, feedback, and grading as synonymous. That was another unexpected, much appreciated gift. Peter’s comment on G+ confirmed that lots of folks are struggling with grading, and that it’s important to be very clear about what is being formally assessed and what isn’t being formally assessed in each formally graded assignment. Another unexpected, but welcome gift! And all these conversations have kept me thinking about the importance of iteration and revision, and how to incorporate those important design principles when time is severely constrained. That may be the best, most unexpected gift of the day.

Ana and I had been talking about grading primarily, and about assessment secondarily; we’re both veteran teachers, so we know (or at least think we know) how to give feedback to our students without involving grades. But I was still glad to find this article by Grant Wiggins in my Google+ feed this afternoon. Go ahead and read it; you won’t be sorry! It was a gift, too.

Meanwhile, here’s what we think we’ve decided about grading. We want to keep the focus on learning and feedback as much as we can, and we want to decrease the amount of compliance-based work that gets “recorded as a grade.” At the same time, we want to help our students make the transition from “do this work for a grade” to “do this work – or this work, or this work – because it will help you learn.” Here’s what we’re thinking about for grades:

  • 10% of the grade (300 points in my point-based system) from formative assignments.
  • 30% from three “minor” assessments (10%, 0r 300 points each for me) each 4 1/2-week reporting period – each one focusing on one mode of communication (interpersonal, interpretive, presentational) and incorporating cultural understanding in some way.
  • The balance of the grade (60% or 1800 points for me) from a “major” assessment at the end of each reporting period. It would incorporate all the modes of communication as well as cultural understanding.

It’s a big shift from “do this 10-point assignment, and now this 20-point assignment, and now this 40-point quiz and this 150-point mini-project.” And big changes are scary, but they’re important, too.

What do you think? And how would you go about incorporating feedback and self-assessment in this system?

quid respondētis, amīcī?

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Published in: on September 4, 2012 at 4:16 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […]  My students have been busy with the major assessment process I outlined in this post  and this one, then described more fully in this one.  They’re finishing their collaborative response […]

  2. […] in September, I described the new, improved grading system my Spanish-teacher colleague and I developed this […]

  3. […] my Spanish-teacher colleague and I designed our proficiency-based grading system last fall, we knew we wanted to move away from task […]


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