One Teachers Journey Testing Out Ken O’Connor’s A Repair Kit for Grading: 15 Fixes for Broken Grades — Fix 13

Fix 13:  Don’t use information from formative assessments and practice to determine grades; use only summative evidence.

I think I have mentioned this before, but I promise I am not looking ahead; I just mentioned this yesterday! If it was me learning something new I would only want summative evidence to determine my grade.  If I had my 6 month performance evaluation at work scheduled (hypothetical) I would want to practice a specific set of skills, and have my final mark only based on the end of my learning journey. I think a student learning an introduction to Biology or Chemistry at their grade-specific level should be no different.  Why would you want your mark to be an average of all your mixed results throughout?

The students, however, seem to think differently; maybe it is an age thing? My own daughter is in kindergarten.  She would never have a final test on writing her name at the end of June.  Her grade is based on evidence of an ongoing evolution of her skills. Do primary students have their reporting based entirely on Formative assessment? Then by Grade 11 and 12 students have their grade based mainly on Summative assessment?  Upper intermediate and junior high school seem to be bridging the gap, from what I have seen. So how do I make it clear to a 14 or 15 year old that giving a final grade based on formative checkpoints in the middle isn’t really fair to them?

Here is how I have orchestrated the conversation, to get my students to “buy into” having a mark based mostly on Summative assessment.  Most of my kids are starting to drive when I teach them. To get your driver’s license in BC you have to go through the following steps:

  1. Get 80% or higher on your written L test
  2. Practice driving with your L for 12 months with supervision
  3. Pass a practical driving test to get your N
  4. Drive safely for 2 years and pass your class 5 road test

Students see the safety implication with this analogy, and agree that they wouldn’t want the ability to drive to be based on all of their early attempts “weighing down the average”.  So back to the skills and knowledge being measured in a science class. I think the biggest psychological obstacle with basing the students mark entirely on summative assessment is what the students picture a test is; maybe it is a “test” thing?  Fifty or more multiple choice questions, no talking, no phone, no binder.  This environment is proven to cause anxiety for many, adults and children included.  And is it really an accurate reflection of learning? Maybe for some students, but certainly not for all.  

I really like the direction education is moving, whereby summative assessment is a conversation or a presentation of learning in a means of your choosing.  Summative assessment can be include self-assessment, because let’s face it, students are much harder critics than we are. When was the last time you studied for a written or multiple choice test as an adult? Our “tests” are based mainly on observations and conversations, and sure may be a score at the end, but it is a much more authentic experience of where we are at in a given context.  Think job interview or checking in on your quarterly sales goals. Don’t our students deserve the same time and respect?

 

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