“The professor never explained that was how she wanted the assignment done; therefore, we all got low grades. I wish she’d just tell us what she wants.”
I’ve heard collegues voice this complaint too many times to count. These are adult, graduate students attending universities from Pepperdine, Loyola Marymount University, California State University, Northridge, amongst others. The gap between what the professor expects in her mind, and what she receives from graduate-level, or shall we say professional learners, is reflected in the grades. Does the grade reflect my colleagues’ understandings and capabilities? Of course not. Should they be afforded the chance to redo the assignment to meet the unexplained criteria of the professor? Should they have to redo the work?
My answer to that question is with my own question: Do you allow your high school students the chance to redo assignments and assessments in your classes?
High school students experience the same frustrations after receiving a low grade for their work, and they are still developing the critical thinking skills required to articulate statements beyond, “The teacher sucks. . .the class is stupid anyway. . .or, next time I just won’t do the assignment.” Without the support of an involved parent, students often defend themselves by becoming angry at the class or the teacher and eventually completely shut down and stop attempting to do the classwork. The problem with the typical grading systems have long been discussed by teachers, and I wrote a lengthy blog post about the issue in Part One.
Feedback vs. Grading
As most assignments are practice for what will eventually be on a summative assessment, then it follows that most assignments are at least partially, formative assessments. The purpose of formative assessments is to guide the teacher in planning which lessons the students still need in order to achieve the learning outcomes on the final assessment. Obviously, nobody practices perfectly. Teacher feedback should then be followed by student reflection. In this moment, the teacher helps students build their critical thinking skills in analyzing the space between what they turned in and what skills they still need to learn to gain mastery of a learning objective. Equally, this is a moment for the student to voice why s/he completed an assignment in a particular format and also point to places where s/he disagrees with teacher feedback.
Student Input on Grades
While I’ve heard amazing educators speak about how their schools are gradeless, I think many of us work in schools or districts where this would not be possible (at least not in the foreseeable future). Therefore, I’m attempting to find ways to work within the grading system so that I may better serve students who struggle to achieve learning – without them becoming frustrated by the grading parameters. What if part of the reflective process incorporated students assigning their own grade on larger projects and essays and then providing justification for the grade? Whenever there is a huge discrepancy in the student’s self-grade and what the teacher believes the grade should be, this would require a personal conversation where the student and teacher get to explain their thought process and ask each other questions.
I am guilty of every possible grading mistake a teacher can possibly make in their career! During last semester, I particularly focused on how day-to-day assignments are graded and what specific impact that has on the student. In the upcoming school year, I will experiment with incorporating student input into the grades and teaching the critical skills necessary to be self-reflective learners.
I am super curious to hear how other teachers struggle with the grading system and how they are addressing the issues in their classrooms.