Tuesday, October 4, 2011

More Thoughts About Grades

In my last blog entry I mentioned how I was going to withhold the letter grades when I returned the weekly journals to the students in my Schools and Society class. It turned out to be a really interesting and worthwhile activity because it raised all kinds of thoughts and questions in the students' minds regarding the purposes and roles of grading in the world or K - 16 education.

As I gave the papers back, the students looked immediately for the small grade slip stapled to the backs of the papers. After a minute or so I asked them to talk in their groups about how they felt and what they thought about not getting a letter grade.

The general consensus was that since they were used to getting a grade they really missed it and really wanted to know what their grade was. They also raised several really interesting points that promoted some great discussion. They all said that they read my copious comments much more closely to see if they could work out what their grade was. They tended to agree that since most of my comments are supportive or tend to ask questions to further their thinking they found it difficult to work out the grade. They also confirmed what they had read in several of the chapters on assessment that grades can be motivators, give you sense of how you're doing, and provide a sort of feedback.

We concluded by deciding that since the State Dept. of Education requires a B grade average in order for students to be licensed to teach it was really important to have a grading system. However, none of us were convinced that there is a clear link between a grade and what has been learned, all the time.

Tomorrow, were going to be exploring issues of assessment especially the role of what one knows about the topic in the assessment of a student's work. Why is the picture above so strange? Or is it? What do you need to know to make that decision?

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