Science, Education, and Science Education

classroom applications
December 28th, 2008 by Luann

Thoughts as we revise assessment in our building

My current plan for implementing Grading for Learning follows.  It is a blending of many things I heard at the December conference in ways that I can see working in my own classroom.

My solutions:

1.  All assignments not submitted on time automatically revert to an alternate assignment.  This is either something less palatable for the student but simpler for me to assess, or a textbook worksheet packet that the student completes, then comes in after school and corrects himself.  Little or no time on my part. The idea here is to show students that it’s just easier to follow a planned path through their learning. Assignment “due dates” are given well in advance.

2.  We will take photos of all labs in progress and keep a sample set of reasonable data.  The student doing tha lab as a very late make-up can then do the normal write-up, look at the pictures, and use the given data to do an analysis.  As I see it, the standard for lab technique would not have been met, so there would need to be some kind of grade penalty for not meeting that standard.  (Science investigations usually have several components, or standards, that are assessed in one lab investigation.  Since I grade on total points because Skyward is not set up for standards, that just means that the points for that standard will be low or missing. The final grade would then reflect the percentage of standards not met.) The assessment-for-learning purists would argue that this is a performance or behavior thing and should not be assessed at all, but I will disagree.  Perhaps they would be pleased with a dental hygenist who’s never actually worked on a live person, but who’s watched lots of movies about cleaning teeth.

3.  No summative assessment (test or quiz) will be given until a student has completed sufficient “formative,” or practice work to demonstrate that he is ready to be assessed.  On test day, a student who is not ready for the assessment will work on becoming ready while the others take the test.  He can then take the test on his own time, later.  Whenever is fine.  It will be an alternative test, possibly essay.

4.  A student scoring below 80% (70%?) on any test must retake the test, at least the parts on which he did poorly. Any other student could also retake, but the second grade stands. The retake would be a different document, and would ideally consist of only the parts of the test on which the student did poorly. As of the last test I gave, it was not possible to give a partial test to most students as they did equally poorly across the board.  I suck as a teacher, apparently.  I see this changing when students are not permitted to take a test “cold” but must actually do some learning first. I’ll even give them the tools they need to learn – imagine that – explanations, opportunities to explore a concept, have their hands and minds on models, discuss topics with their peers, etc.  Perhaps I just don’t write appropriate tests.  An area of improvement here……

Formative work would be the assignments relating to the test topic – reading journals, labs, projects, class notes ( this will be tricky to implement appropriately), index card graphic organizers, concept maps, projects, research, or whatever has been used in class to build knowledge about the topic. Formative assessments allow students to describe their learning targets, assess where they are in the progression of learning to reach their target, plan what they still need to do to reach the target, and describe the resources they will use and how they will use the resources to reach their target.

The snag is the same as I’ve had for the past year, and would be the same issue we need to discuss as a building.  What is the fate of an Incomplete?  Can we let a student make up the work for an Incomplete any time up until graduation?  How long before the I turns to an F?  Does the I on an individual assignment turn to a (shudder) zero, or must we allow a student to have 50% of the assignment’s value for doing absolutely nothing?  I’m currently looking at the mathematical implications of a 0 in my grading system.  I didn’t see any grading systems quite like it at the conference.


Update on June 8, 2010: None of this worked. Grades were at least a bit inflated, and students didn’t seem to benefit by attempting to complete an entire semester’s work and take 5 tests during the last 3 weeks before grades closed.

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