Do No Harm: Flexible and Smart Grading Practices
Several people expressed interest in my Edutopia post When Grading Harms Student Learning. Grading is a highly emotional subject, with strong opinions and ideas held by many people. I was very pleased to see that people were talking about the issue from all sides. The most useful feedback I received was that, while many readers agreed with parts of the premise, I hadn’t been specific enough about how to provide support for it. Thank you for your feedback; it was specific, actionable, and created a need and excitement for a follow-up post, which I greatly appreciate. While there are numerous tools available to address concerns about redos, zeroes, not grading homework, and other issues, the following are a few of my personal favorites: 1.
Address Behavioral Issues Affecting Academic Achievement
Students may not be motivated if they are penalized with points for late work. My experience has taught me that when I deducted points for late work, some students simply accepted their losses. It did not address the problem of tardiness at work as a behavioral issue. Furthermore, it did not address the issue of work that was not completed. A method of motivating students that did not rely on points was something I needed to figure out. To address the issues that were preventing me from turning in work on time, I created a form that was similar to Myron Dueck’s late or incomplete assignment form (click the link and scroll down to Figure 1.3). Students identify their issues, which can range from a heavy course load to procrastination, and then set a new completion goal for themselves. They also determine whether or not they require additional support. These forms are excellent for assessing behavioral issues because they are responsive rather than punitive. It is an approach that truly assists students in becoming prepared for a future in which it is much more detrimental to turn in work late than it is now.
Request to Retest
Putting the student in control of what they’ll redo and how they’ll redo it is an excellent way to engage them in the learning process. It places the onus on them to be self-advocates for their own learning while also assisting them in setting learning objectives. Request for Retest Form (PDF): Students reflect on their performance and the concepts or skills that they did not master on the first try. They also identify the next steps that they will take to improve their test. However, while this is specific to a more traditional test, it could also be applied to other major assessments that contain a large number of components or concepts in general.
Redo Parts of an Assessment
Some of the assessments that we give students are divided into very distinct categories. For example, a history exam might evaluate several concepts or ideas, while an essay might evaluate the thesis and the organization. The data can be easily disaggregated in this case. It may be necessary to have a student redo only the sections that he or she requires while leaving the rest as is in this case. That also means that you’ll have to regrade or reassess much less frequently as a result. It saves you time as a teacher and allows you to more precisely target your assessment questions. As previously stated, this may not be a useful strategy for assessments that synthesize concepts or skills, but rather for assessments that can be broken down into smaller subsets of information.
Reflect on Assessments
The use of ongoing reflection throughout the assessment process, whether it is a small quiz or a major exam, is a strategy that many educators have used in my experience. For example, after completing an assessment, students should reflect on and discuss questions such as the following:
Were you adequately prepared for this examination? What steps did you take to prepare?
How much time did you spend outside of class studying the material?
Did you feel more confident in certain sections or parts of the book than others?
These questions enable students to identify their own strengths and weaknesses about the material they need to learn, as well as how they can better prepare themselves to learn the material. I also like how it connects to behavioral issues that get in the way of academic achievement, addressing them directly and in a non-punitive manner. It also assists students and teachers in planning for redos that may not be complete, thereby saving both time and stress for both teachers and students.
Pick Your Battles
You are familiar with your curriculum. You are well aware that some assessments and assignments are critical in demonstrating evidence of learning and development. Other assessments, the majority of which are formative in nature, are simply check-ins that have little or no impact on the grade. In some cases, these smaller assessments may not be worth redoing or submitting late or incomplete assignment forms. Larger, more comprehensive assessments, on the other hand, may provide better opportunities for offering redos and addressing behavioral problems. As a master educator, you have the ability to pick and choose your battles and concentrate on what is most important in terms of assessment. Make the best decision you can!
Again, It’s About Hope
I hope that you will find these resources to be useful in your classes. We must be realistic and acknowledge that, no matter how hard we try, we may not be able to compel all students to complete the work that we require in class. However, we have an opportunity to rethink how we assess students and develop systems that provide students with a realistic expectation of success rather than relying on antiquated systems that have failed to meet the needs of all students.