I am constantly assessing my students; however, I hate grading. Intensely. It has been wonderful being a school librarian this year. One of the primary reasons is that I haven’t had to grade (I still assessed; don’t get the ideas confused).
I am planning on completely throwing out the way I graded and replacing it with something that is very different and much more meaningful to students. The hardest part, I think, will be getting my students, parents, and administrators (not really if I get the job I’m hoping for) on board as it is different from what most are used to. To give credit where it is due, my thoughts on this have been influenced greatly by Matt Townsley, a math educator from Iowa.
I would like to move completely to grading based on understanding/mastery of standards. This will have to differ a little class by class as Web 2.0 Tools does not yet have standards. MS Office does, I believe, and programming will progress by concept. I tend to be very constructivist in my teaching and most of my assignments for better or worse are open-ended and project/problem based.
At the beginning of the grading quarter, I plan to give students a breakdown of everything that they are supposed to master in the given time. While I understand that students learn at different rates, there are limits placed on how far we can go by school districts and we as teachers have deadlines we have to meet as well. I can modify by student as I get to know them better if need be.
I do not plan on grading homework, if I give any, and I do not plan on giving due dates. Grading based on when a student turns something in feels a lot like grading behavior, not understanding which is counterproductive to learning. As a student demonstrates mastery of a concept or a standard, s/he will receive a grade proportional to the mastery demonstrated. If the child does not demonstrate mastery in a given time, s/he has the rest of the grading period. Once s/he can show me that understanding has been achieved, I will simply replace the poor grade with one that reflects the student’s new understanding. Averaging a good grade and a poor grade does not reflect the student’s true understanding, so I don’t want to incorporate that.
My main concern about grading based on understanding comes from an insecurity I have of keeping every student motivated and working collaboratively in this new environment. So, for at least the first grading period, I will have regular, individual conferences where the student and I can discuss how s/he has spent any independent or group time, which will be a large part in these types of classes, what s/he has learned, and where s/he thinks s/he needs to focus for the next week. I am not including participation as that is a formative assessment that would give me insight into how to help the student achieve understanding. In these types of project-based, hands-on classes, I will not be giving any tests unless required. If I do give quizzes, they also will be used as formative tools to help determine student understanding and guide instruction and interventions.
What do you think? Am I off my rocker? Last year and the year before, I used a points based system. A large part of the grade was participation as well as accumulation of points. I was too lenient in accepting late work according to my own policies and I do not feel that all the grades were truly reflective of student understanding. I think something along these lines would help give myself, my students, my students’ parents, and administrators a much clearer idea of what the students know.