One Teachers Journey Testing Out Ken O’Connor’s A Repair Kit for Grading: 15 Fixes for Broken Grades — Fix 10

Fix 10: Don’t rely on evidence gathered using assessments that fail to meet standards of quality; rely only on quality assessments

Haha, maybe the end of the school year wasn’t the best time to attempt these 15 fixes.  Ok, yes, challenge accepted. I will only accept quality assignments. Quality for one, however, can be mediocre for others.  Fair is not equal… I digress.

Here is the climate in Science 10 lately.  We are looking at how ecosystems change over time; the students have a bunch of jumbled up stages in secondary succession.  Their task is to put the text in order, and illustrate what that would actually look like (make a cartoon). Student A reads the directions carefully, cuts and pastes the steps, rearranges them into the correct order and does a satisfactory job at illustrating.  Their conclusion is written clearly on the back of the page by the end of the period. Student B does not read the directions, writes out the steps in shorthand (almost illegibly) on a scrap of paper and attempts to use the Storyboard That website to digitally draw out a cartoon.  Student’s A can verbally explain the stages in succession; their work matches their understanding. Student B, however, can explain the science pretty accurately verbally, but never actually completed any assignment to support their explanation, despite 3 gentle and encouraging reminders in 3 successive class periods.  The partially completed version of the assignment I saw several times left in my classroom was certainly not a quality assignment.

I am not wrapped up in the means of how I get my evidence, but at the end of the day I want to be accurate and consistent, and I want the students to be clear on how they can improve their level of understanding.  Student B would take 12 months to complete a 5 month course if everything I required was “quality”. That, or the current situation, whereby he finished the course in 5 months but his mark is not the greatest because I didn’t have the patience or tenacity to wait for quality.

One of my mantras for assessment is that weighing a pig does not make it fatter.  I don’t want to collect droves of assignments; I would much rather collect one quality assignment every few weeks (depending on the age and subject).  This, for me, definitely brings about a bigger issue and a paradigm shift for both students and their parents, as well as my colleagues.

I guess my take home message after being mindful of this fix is that I need to know my students.  Only after I know them and their interests and abilities can I truly understand what quality looks like for them specifically.  Then, and I know this is lacking for me at times, I need to stay diligent with those repeat offenders and keep giving back low-quality evidence until it is good enough.  Man. Assessment is so cool – it takes both sensitivity and discipline simultaneously.

 

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