My presentation to the faculty went pretty well. I was a little worried because some of the grading scenarios and a few of the new ideas can be seen as a little radical. All my hope was going in to it was that people would walk away having thought a little deeper about how they assess their students. Could they then make a few changes this year?
These grading changes have produced a profound effect for me. It has resulted in a different mentality and outlook for myself and my students. Not that my grading system has been turned upside down or is completely different. It is and it isn't. But, my breakthrough has been in the approach that I have had with students. No longer do I look at my kids and think, "Why isn't this kid reading his book?" or "Why didn't this student bring his book to class?" or "Why isn't this kid taking notes!?!"
Now I turn my attention to the only thing that really matters anyway - "What is this kid learning?" or more appropriately: "Has this student learned what we targeted today?"
This nuance goes a long, long way towards the approach I have with kids. I no longer raise my voice. It's not really needed. My sights are on our goals and our learning target. It's a singular focus. The kids weren't bringing their books to class... so last year I said, "Leave your book at home. You will be reading it at home during the night." Our book is huge. Bringing it to class is a pain - for real.... In their backpacks! It's World History - so it has a lot in it! This decision of keeping the book at home though and never bringing it to class comes with a responsibility -- homework. Now their book should be at home and ready to be read and worked on in the evening.
But, I also changed my homework policy as well over the past couple of years. I no longer ask for a little work every night, instead I have a long term assignment. It is usually a ten days to two week assignment. Same number of questions, just spread out over time. This gives everyone a chance to get them done. No excuses. Plus, I go over about 1/2 of them in class as 'practice.' This means the kids get guided help on just how to answer the questions and how to attack them. Again, no excuse, low pressure, but high reward --> did the student learn it?
My grading is essentially the district guideline and standard, but with an elevator or motivator. The district standard is the assignment is for full credit (100%) on the day that it is due. The second day it is graded for 1/2 credit (50%) and the their day it is a zero.
What I have added to it works like this - students can come in for tutoring and raise any grade to an 85, as long as they have shown strong evidence that they have learned the material. With a quiz grade the students can come in and retake a quiz. (I usually have 2 or 3 versions of tests or quizzes. Same questions, different answer choices to cut down on cheating. So when they come in for the requiz or retest I give them one of the alternates)
For any reassessment opportunity they must meet certain prereqs:
* Must be done in tutoring and on their free time - not during class.
* Must have completed all homework assignments to have the opportunity.
* Must have evidence of notetaking from the book or from class to retake a test or quiz.
* For homework, you must submit it to me during tutoring and I will ask a series of oral questions to check the learning. At the end of the session I ask, "What grade (up to an 85) do you think you earned? We negotiate a grade that matched their learning. Often it is NOT as high as an 85. That is rare.
* You get one chance per graded assignment. And you can not retake a test, quiz or homework after we have taken the next test. (then it is getting too late and we are beginning to learn and be responsible for new material)
So what have these grading changes (essentially grading FOR learning) done for me and my students? We don't look at each other like we are in some kind of "gotcha" game. Where Mr. D is going to jump up at the end of the unit and say, "Why didn't you learn this or that? Why didn't you read more?" The students know what is expected and what is to be learned. If they didn't learn it, there is an opportunity for relearning to occur. So students view me as someone who is working with them to help them learn and I am no longer the enemy in any way. (although I really wasn't before, there wasn't as much trust)
This has REALLY helped with my projects. I give a project each six week's period. There is always a product, presentation, and paper. With each part, students have begun to bring those into me for advice on whether or not they are on track. So I read over their presentation or paper and give them feedback. This has resulted in much better quality work. And it has resulted in students who feel more confident about what they are doing and learning.
Some teachers tell me that it is too much work to do all of that grading, but essentially it is less! I don't have to read their papers as thoroughly on the final day when I do put a grade on it. If I've already read it a few times, it is easier to grade and far more interesting for me to read. And I don't have as many papers where I am ready to tear apart the paper and think, "WHY DID THEY DO THIS?" Or... "Where is the THESIS statement!?!?!!!" We've already checked over that.
This is a lot more to what I have changed, but they are more subtle adjustments in how I work with my students. A quick example is using peers in class to do some feedback and grading. When a quick assignment in class (like an "exit ticket" - designed to get some reflection at the end of the period. they must have it to leave the class) results in my knowledge of how closer the students are to learning what was intended, I can make adjustments for the next class. They really don't understand the Three Estates of France? I retouch it the next class and be sure it sinks in. They totally get Hitler's Two Big Mistakes? Then I move on.
I would be certain that most teachers would not understand what I am doing or think, "What is the deal, I could NEVER get away with that?" But, I am lucky to be at a school that is quite progressive and is pushing this initiative. Or else I probably wouldn't feel as confident in trying new things out.
Again if you are interested in the full presentation, you can view it here: