Monday, August 4, 2014

Why do we grade everything?

The common core standards and the next generation science standards have provided a common framework that represents the skills and content knowledge that we expect students to master in order to be prepared for college and careers. The standards and correlated high stakes tests are designed to assess students on the application of these skills and content.

If we accept these standards as "what kids need to know and do" then we need to develop curriculum and assessment that scaffolds students toward this goal. How we get students their should be variable. The activities, technologies, lesson design and products should be representative of the dynamics of your class. Students should be given what they need based on observation, data and their feedback. While this represents the "art" of teaching, close consideration should be given to best-practice instructional strategies. It is at this stage that collaboration among teachers may result in improved instructional practice.

If the goal of our efforts is "student learning" vs. "teaching"  we need to consider the opportunities we provide students and teachers to check for understanding and progress towards learning.  Learning is defined as "the acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience, study, or by being taught" Research and experiences has proven that failure is an essential component to growth, development and learning.  How can we provide opportunities for students to not fear failure in order to provide them a chance to take risks, recognize areas to focus improvement and channel resources? How can we provide teachers with a true understanding of where students are on the learning curve? 

The use of formative assessments provide opportunities for this type of measurement. Whether its a do now, exit slip or a short quiz these types of "check for understanding" assessments are effective. If we eliminate the grading of these assessments we take away the punitive nature of these assessments. The assessments may now be on-demand and unannounced. There will not be grade inflation representative of study guides, tutoring or intensive review. The feedback is immediate, authentic and relevant.

When we provide formative reviews of student learning our instructional practices can align to what students need vs. what we have to 'cover'.  The summative assessments, aligned to the standards can then represent a greater weighting of the overall grade and will result in a course grade that better reflects student understanding.


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