Rethinking Grades – Do Overs

As I am finishing the school year and starting to check in with blogs I hadn’t been keeping up with before, I came across this crazy (but oh so true) tale of students and grades by Shawn Cornally at ThinkThankThunk.  It boils down to students only being interested in the grade, not the actual learning.

clapperboard3Speaking of grades and learning, I had a particularly grade motivated group of students this year, which made switching to standards-based grading so much more interesting.  One aspect of my new grading practices that I have mixed feelings about is the opportunity for reassessments.

What I liked:

  • Students got the chance to revisit a topic that didn’t click for them the first time around without penalty. I love the aspect of not penalizing someone (by losing points on a test or quiz) for not understanding a concept the first time around.  As long as my students can show me that they know it by the time I need to assign a grade, they get credit for knowing it.  For a handful of students, this motivated them to continue to work at understanding until they got a concept, long after they might have otherwise.
  • I separated retakes by individual standards (for the most part).  This was especially helpful for struggling students, we could focus on and master the core objectives for retakes without having to master everything.  (Of course it wasn’t always possible to separate standards out, but most of the time it was.)

What I need to tweak:

  • This was lots of extra work for me – but mostly because it was my first time doing it, and also because I didn’t have a great reassessment policy in place (and I’ll admit, didn’t do a great job of sticking to my policy).
  • My reassessment policy needs to require students to do more than fill out the request for reassessment.  If I’m going to do the work of creating extra questions, I need to know they have at least done the extra work of studying to be able to answer those questions.  I had a few who expected to be able to take retakes almost immediately after a retake.

This last point brings up the area I most want to concentrate on for next year.  While students were required to fill out a Reassessment request (which I adapted from Sam Shah’s form), I didn’t do a great job of following up on what the form was meant to do – require students to work on relearning before reattempting to master a concept.

So how will I change this?

  • Have a central location where all forms are kept (yeah, this sounds pretty simple, but I need to remind myself of this).  That way when a student comes to me ready to complete a reassessment that they requested I can…
  • Check to make sure students have completed the relevant homework, quiz/test corrections, and whatever other steps are necessary for success.  I will make sure students expect this brief conference with me before handing over the retake.
  • Require students to not only fill out the form, but give me a certain number of hallway passes to earn the right for a retake – another way for students to be more invested in retakes.  These hallway passes were a device I came up with years ago to keep my students in class at a school where the cultural expectations include more time out of the classroom than I would like.  In my old grading system, these passes were worth extra credit (although they were worth so few points, they didn’t amount to anything) and this “extra credit” kept my students in class and learning.  With SBG (and no points) I need a better way to incorporate these passes – so maybe this is it.  (I know, it would really be best to just have all my students intrinsically motivated enough to stay in the classroom on their own.  I’m open to ideas on this…) Of course, I will have ways for students to earn extra passes to take more retakes if necessary.

I’ll try these couple of things, and see if  this is an improvement.  And then probably be ready to tweak a few more things next year!

Update:  I have redesigned my Reassessment request form to incorporate some of my ideas.  I’ll let you know how it works after I’ve tried it for awhile.  Feel free to use and make changes!!