Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Grading Discussions

Anyone else confused? It seems like I just went through an entire day of meetings and talked some about grading. One meeting had us looking at the idea of getting rid of grading all together. Then we have talked about how to give feedback. Finally, we talked about using letter grades for a method of telling students/parents about reaching benchmarks. It seems as though we (I mean me) are looking for a way to make grades more meaningful than they are currently. I wonder how to do this.......

Are we just seeing different ideas right now and the answer is coming from some higher power? Is this one of the "cycles" in education that my college professors talked about? As I am looking for answers about grading? I am just becomming more and more frusterated about the discussions? What are we trying to decide? I am looking at what I am doing in the area of grading? (Knowing that I could do more to help students.) I am just a little afraid about what I have been reading/hearing and the direction that this is going. Is a decision coming about grades or is this just going to be one of those "neat"discussions in education?

Anyone else out there feeling these things? Thinking these thoughts?


Karl Fisch said...

Well, I can't speak for the folks in your other meetings and what they are thinking, but I can talk about what I was intending in the 21c group.

I was intending that each of us take some time and really think about grading - something that I fear few of us have ever really done. That's why I posed the question at the end of our discussion that I'd like each one of you to answer the question "What is the purpose of grading?" for yourselves. I think once you answer that question for yourself, you'll have a much better idea of what you want to do with grades.

Personally, I think there are two things we should be looking at. First, given our current grading system, how can we modify what we do to do two things: provide better feedback to students to help them learn; and get them to focus on learning instead of grades.

Second, my personal opinion is that long term we should be thinking about whether grades as we know them is the best system for what we want to accomplish. That's the reason for the question about the purpose of grades. Once you determine the purpose of grades, then you can reexamine the issue and see if grades are really the best way to achieve that purpose.

Maybe I just confused the issue more, but I hope not. It's always possible that this is just one of those "discussions" in education that never goes anywhere, but that is not my take on it. I truly believe we can make changes to "the system." If not us, then who? If not now, then when? Those freshmen sitting in your classes - this is the only 4 years of high school they have. Are you willing to tell them that we'll improve things sometime down the road?

Barbara S. said...

"I wonder how to do this....." is how I feel also. I have come to realize that grades do nothing for my students or me. I actually told a calculus student last semester that I did not think her grade reflected what she knew. As in most math classes, what you learn is built upon what you learned previously. Well, when I gave a test she did not know what she needed to know to be successful. But later she learned the skill and it was obvious she NOW knew what she had not known because she was using the skill in the current lesson. How frustrating that her grade was low because of WHEN she learned a skill and not that she knew the skill.

So, what to do? My first attempt at improving my grading procedure is to include the topic and Standard number on my Algebra assignments. I am doing this in hopes that kids can tell what topic with which they are struggling and/or being successful. All of my algebra students have been given a copy of the Colorado Model Content Standards (there are 6) and we discussed them. I don't know if I can logistically let students test and retest until they demonstrate mastery; it would be a grading nightmare (although I once considered it).

Hatak said...

I think that it is a good idea to help the studetns see where the material came from. I also agree that the idea of having the conversation is the important part, at least right now. The discussion about grading is making me think about what I do and assign values to the activities that I have the students complete. I think that is a much more important item right now then trying to decide if letter grades need to go away. I am sure that conversation will become important later.