Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Summer School - Day Twenty-Seven - Assessment

As summer school winds down, students are scrambling to complete projects and missed quizzes in a desperate attempt to boost their grade. They cram for a few minutes and then ask for a quiz. I give them a simple problem and watch them scratch out some incoherent scribbles. Even if they get the answer, it is clear that there is no understanding and no retained learning.

Over the summer, I have been reading a lot about standards-based grading. I think a system like this would correct a lot of the problems cited above. Students would not be scrambling because every standard is reassessable (is that a word?) at any time. They would not be cramming because standards are assessed throughout the course and reflect sustained learning and growth. There would be no incoherent scribbles because students would have a clear understanding of the standard to be assessed.

The biggest problem I have right now is that if a student does not complete a project, I have no data on that particular concept (standard) and the student receives a zero. This may not be because they do not understand or cannot demonstrate mastery. Perhaps the are just lazy or content with their current grade. Either way, it is not a good reflection of their actual learning of concepts in the course. The last minute cramming is more for my benefit than for theirs.

So many things about how I teach are beginning to irk me. This is good. It makes me question what I do and why I do it. I may not get to full blown standards-based grading this school year. But it is on my mind.


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