Sometimes not having a classroom stinks.

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This grade makes no sense.  Stop doing this.

The most excruciating thing for me to do these days is to go to workshops.  Why is that, you ask?

Because I learn all sorts of cool stuff that I would love to try in a classroom…but I don’t have a classroom anymore.  So I have to be content with getting others I have brought and/or dragged with me to use the learned goodness in their own classrooms.

This time the workshop was a two-day grading and assessment workshop presented by Rick Wormeli at a location mercifully 20 minutes away from my house (I usually have an hour-long commute).  While the teachers that attended with me walked away with some answers and even more questions regarding grading for learning in their classrooms, I had to be content with taking 4 pages of individual and awesome bullet points.  While I will not share all of the awesomeness with you, I will share with you some of the ideas that struck me as shareworthy:

  • Giving zeroes is fine – it’s whether or not students can recover from them that matters.
  • Gradebooks are reports of learning, not students doing things to barter those things for a certain amount of points.
  • We must disaggregate our data about student learning so there is less curriculum per symbol (“symbol” meaning grade, percent, etc.).
  • Students should be compared to how well they met learning goals, not compared to other students.
  • Stop being slaves to the math- just because we math up grades doesn’t inherently lend them any sort of validity or accuracy.
  • Be evidentiary.  We must demand evidence from students that they have mastered learning goals – letting students not turn in work lets them off the hook from their responsibility to provide you with evidence of understanding.
  • When creating a rubric, put exemplars up of different levels of understanding/proficiency and let students develop the proficiency scale.  (This is so brilliant I almost took over a teacher’s classroom just to try it.)
  • Aaaaaand this video that tells me we can’t put boxes around students by demanding correct answers in exchange for points:

Some of you know that I have been drinking the grading for learning kool-aid for years, and yet I still walked away from this workshop with new ideas, philosophies, and things that could be tried in classrooms.  And it’s that last bit – the “trying” – that needs to happen. Rick Wormeli’s advice was to try one new idea per month, because anyone trying to implement grading for learning in their classrooms will soon realize that those ideas are all interconnected…and you’ll soon have a learning-based grading and reporting system before you realize it.

But remember, when teachers are in the beginning stages of trying to transform their grading and reporting systems, you have to let them know (often over and over again) that they have room to try, and fail, and revise, and try again.  Support them, admins, any way you can, even if it’s just to cheerlead and provide whatever counseling you can when they’re about to have a nervous breakdown because of their trying (similar to what was done for me when I was first starting out with grading for learning) or to simply ask the question, “What can I do to help?”

These brave teachers may not feel like they’re getting it “right.”  But, to me, attempts at trying to change from a system of point accumulation for letter grades is always worth the effort – and is always the right thing to work towards.

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