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Rethink Your Grading System

Wednesday, July 13, 2016 -- Scott Sterling

Summer is the time to make wholesale changes to your practice, such as flipping or going project-based. One popular move is for teachers to rethink how they assess and grade student progress – something you can’t change in the middle of the school year. If you fall in that boat, here are some options to think about.

Gamification

You may think gamification is only possible with software, but you can monitor a scaled-down system yourself. Establish badges, trophies, achievements, and other rewards that align to your curricular learning goals and keep track of who earns what. Whether you make student progress public is up to you.

Grade/Edit/Replace

Learning is supposed to be a process, but when students hand in work without a chance to rectify their mistakes, the process ends swiftly and sometimes dishearteningly. There are lots of ways to improve that process, starting with giving students the opportunity to try again without penalty. An added challenge is to grade work without identifying what the student has done wrong; ask the student (or a small group of peers) to figure that out themselves.

Projects and rubrics

If you’re considering going project-based this summer, your grading methodology has to change, if for no other reason than you are addressing multiple learning goals with a single work product. When using a rubric for these projects, think about simply identifying progress rather than giving letter-based or number-based feedback. Then, consider giving students another opportunity to succeed, like above.

Democratization

This one isn’t for everybody, but it is an interesting idea. Publish everyone’s work online (anonymously or not) and collect feedback from anyone and everyone – peers, parents, other teachers, etc. Students then choose which feedback to accept during their revision process. This is reflective of how work is done in the creative fields, so it may be especially valuable to consider in those classes.

Only accept excellence

This one is simple – you don’t accept a work product until it’s worth an A. It’s basically mastery education, but feedback and revision is key. If your school or district won’t consider anything other than number or letter grades, base those on how many revision cycles the student took to reach excellent work.

Large-scale changes like revamping your grading system require research, patience, and dedication from both you and your students. But, online tools can make the process smoother! Check out Edmentum’s online solutions to find out about powerful curriculum, assessment, and collaboration tools to support a variety of teaching and learning models.