“Feedback is honesty. Don’t just tell me ‘good job’ when I didn’t.” —Middle years student
My colleagues and I work with systems across North America who are undergoing assessment reform. Educators and leaders alike are asking themselves how to shift their assessment practices, when to do it, and what it will entail. The questions generated in a single coaching session illuminate the complexity of this shift. Teachers are wondering how assessment should be designed, which symbol (if any) to attach to products and performances, and how to respond to assessment evidence in ways that will advance learning. This work is both significant and challenging, and no one is taking it lightly. However, in the quest to “get it right,” adults often forget a key source of wisdom and insight available to us every single day. Perhaps we see this source as a receptor of our refined assessment system, rather than as a collaborative partner in its design. Whatever the reason, maybe it is time we turned to this source—our students—and consulted them on decisions we are making.
Just like many of you, I had to develop a whole new set of skills in the last few months, as learning went online for the adults I work with in the same way most of you moved to remote teaching with your students.
Truthfully, I’ve gotten caught up in exploring many of the online tools teachers are using to share learning experiences with their students. Read more
Many readers of this blog will be familiar with the age-old philosophical question that raises a variety of responses regarding what we see and what we perceive:
“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Read more
The caricature of the tough grader is familiar to most; the teacher who only doles out As or top marks to the truly elite performances. They often begin grading a stack of papers with the idea of holding back the As early on, in case someone deeper in the stack produced a truly exceptional paper.
Often, this caricature has a sense of pride about the competitive nature of grades, whether that competitive culture was inadvertently or intentionally created. Read more
This is the fourth and final entry of four blog posts about facilitating healthy grading conversations in schools. The first three posts (read posts one, two, and three here) outline a tremendous amount of work that may span a few years’ worth of preparation before implementing changes in grading practices.
It’s a common mistake to assume that implementation simply involves pulling the lever while saying “ready, set, go!” Even after a solid foundation of establishing coherence, clarity, and readiness has been built, much care and attention must be given to the implementation phase. The Guiding Coalition is active through the entire implementation phase. Members of the team help to facilitate conversations and consensus processes. They also engage in enacting staff decisions and monitoring the effectiveness of their efforts. The implementation phase offers the formal launch to a public process that is rife with opportunities for things to go askance. During the implementation phase, the Guiding Coalition is still actively pursuing evidence of effectiveness and troubleshooting concerns along the way. Read more
Note: This entry is the first in a four-part series by Cassandra Erkens.
School improvement conversations fail when everyone walks away frustrated, the public angrily engages, and all change efforts within the initiative are abandoned. Sadly, many grading conversations fall into that failing category. In fact, the mere worry that things might go badly prohibits some very smart educational leaders from ever launching the grading conversation.
Conversations about grading can prove challenging. They are fraught with ingrained expectations, past practices, emotions, and opinions. But just because they’re hard conversations, doesn’t mean they should be avoided. Sometimes, those are the most important conversations to have. Indeed, generating clarity and consistency in policy and practice across a school building or district—especially on something as significant as grading—is crucial work.
I often hear teachers say they have been told that homework should not be graded. This message is a source of confusion.
Somehow, students have interpreted this as “homework doesn’t count, so I don’t really need to put any effort into it.” This is not the message we want to send. Any work given to students should be designed to further their understanding and increase levels of achievement. It is crucial to their success and that message needs to be loud and clear.
Lately I have had cause to review a variety of grading policies from various districts. Clearly, I realize that the focus of a grading policy is obviously grading, but I can’t help but think that they unintentionally take the focus off of learning. Read more
Consider an assessment you or your collaborative team recently gave in a grade level or course.
- What did you do with the results?
- What did students do with the results?
- How did the students and the teacher(s) learn from the evidence of student learning?
Currently, one of my favorite television shows is A Million Little Things on ABC. It’s a show about a group of adult friends who, under unexpected circumstances, come together to support each other through an incredibly difficult time; the range of experiences is intense and the solutions often layered and complicated by their own personal stories. That said, the premise of the show (for this conversation) is not as relevant as the show’s tagline. Read more