One Teachers Journey Testing Out Ken O’Connor’s A Repair Kit for Grading: 15 Fixes for Broken Grades — Fix 14

Fix 14: Don’t summarize evidence accumulated over time when learning is developmental and will grow with time and repeated opportunities; in those instances, emphasize more recent achievement

Have I mentioned that this book is amazing, and the lessons summarized are both intuitive and overwhelming all at the same time? I have dove in the deep end; I am on board, I have bought into these best practices for assessment.  That said, organizing something like this, in my head or on my computer, is a seemingly difficult task. Maybe I just picture some of my parent teacher interviews I have had. I am a very organized person, but my system looks completely disorganized to a parent- especially a critical parent wondering why their child isn’t doing so hot.  I usually have student names going along the Y axis, learning outcomes going across the X axis, and have somehow (even though it is on a screen or on paper) added a Z axis for time. I have both paper based records for my day to day observations, and I update marks “that count” every few weeks into our system. There is a number system to show levels of understanding (1, 2 or 3); I have tried colour coordinating, and I have a variety of shorthand letters or symbols that mean various things.  I try to annotate any missing assignments for the student as they arise (to me an excused absence for the dentist is different than sleeping in or skipping). I think relationships are more important than record keeping, but I also don’t want to get caught with my pants down if a parent or principal has questions. It’s a delicate balance…

At the end of the day, learning takes time, and I really try to be clear with my students that their practice doesn’t count; taking risks in class is not going to bring their marks down.  The term “weight” is a little confusing for some of them, even some grade 10’s and 11’s still don’t get that a 20 question test at the end of a unit will drive their grade disproportionately more than a 20 question assignment.  I think students should know how they are being marked, and understand the reasons behind it. You can’t hit a bullseye if you don’t know where it is. Maybe that is my problem? I’m too transparent with my students, and they don’t have the maturity, vocabulary or training to understand it? Should I just say how the course will be on the syllabus and the first day of class and then leave more mystery to it all? Something to consider I guess…    

Getting back to Fix 14 before I totally go off the rails.  Maybe the difficulty I have scaffolding this is focussing on too big or long-term of learning goals.  Is the learning goal I know the locations and charges of protons, neutrons and electrons in an atom or is it chemical processes require energy change as atoms are rearranged? One goal is 60 minutes tops, the other is 60 days.  So keeping a running tally of where a student is at, so to speak, with one goal is much easier to document than the other.  

So as usual, my reflection has both reaffirmed my philosophy about science education and assessment and also totally twisted everything around backwards and upside down at the same time.  Thanks, as usual even though I don’t mention it specifically, for any comments or insight you can provide. As a related side note, please do keep in mind the Canadian Assessment for Learning Conference & Symposium – Location in Delta – May 1-3.  I will be there will bells on.

 

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