“I realized what I really care about is getting students engaged with the content. So, I started thinking of different ways students could demonstrate course engagement: coming to class, completing assigned homework, actively participating in group work, making use of office hours, getting tutoring at the learning center, joining online discussions, offering quality comments in class, offering written comments (submitted to the teacher with the option of remaining anonymous), submitting questions electronically. I decided not to grade participation but to reward engagement.”
In the classroom, I can be formidable: I’ve been known to drill-sergeant lethargic students out of their chairs and demand burpees; I am a master of the I’m Not Mad, I’m Just Disappointed scowl. And yet, when it comes to assigning an end-of-semester letter value to their results, I am grade-A milquetoast.
Students don’t like cumulative exams—that almost goes without saying. They prefer unit exams that include only material covered since the previous exam. And they’d like it even better if the final wasn’t a comprehensive exam but rather one last unit test. But students don’t always prefer what research shows promotes learning and long-term retention, and that is the case with this study of the effects of cumulative exams in an introductory psychology course.
The college majors that tend to lead to the most profitable professions are also the stingiest about awarding A’s. Science departments grade, on a four-point scale, an average of 0.4 points lower than humanities departments, according to a 2010 analysis of national grading data by Stuart Rojstaczer and Christopher Healy. And two new research studies suggest that women might be abandoning these lucrative disciplines precisely because they’re terrified of getting B’s.
Over the past five years, 37 states have improved their overall grades by at least one full grade level because of significant reform, particularly in the areas of teacher evaluation and related teacher effectiveness policies.
Click on a state for detailed information about that state’s teacher policies or explore the results of the 2013 Yearbook further in the State Yearbook Dashboard.
Damian Ewens sits in his snazzy office at BetaSpring, a Providence business incubator. He’s mother hen to Achievery, a business that provides a platform for building “digital badge” systems.
And they are? Well, they’re basically a high-tech version of Boy Scout badges, certifying that the young man sporting one of the iconic patches on his sash actually knows something about knot-tying, canoeing or cooking over a campfire. The Scout manual explains what skills that badge certifies and the criteria for getting one.
Many schools use a 1-4 scale to indicate not enough evidence, not yet proficient, proficient, or exceeding proficiency. Parents and students may think this is just the same as A-D, but it’s not. Designing a grading strategy and communicating it effectively is an important step in reshaping the culture of schools and districts.
Much of the grading controversy is driven by college admissions. That’s slowly changing. Last week, 48 New England colleges announced that they would be accepting proficiency-based diplomas. While we’re waiting for higher ed to change,school districts will need to provide translations that give their graduates a shot at selective schools.
Report cards that provide standards-based feedback need to be simple to produce and easy to understand–and 20 years after our first attempt, it’s still harder than it should be.
When you are a math teacher you are often faced with the dilemma of whether to assign partial credit to a problem that is incorrect, but that demonstrates some knowledge of the topic. Should I give half-credit? Three points out of five? My answer has typically been to give no credit…at first. However, taking a page from my colleagues in the English department (and grad school), I do allow for revisions, which ends up being a much better solution.
I found intriguing the idea of letting students decide whether they want to be called on or prefer to volunteer. Do you think that’s a good idea? I rather like it. It gives students some control and if we believe the research that being in control increases motivation, maybe that and freedom from the fear of being called on might encourage some students to speak up.
Yet when teachers tell unvarnished truths at any stage, they are accused of damaging the self-esteem of their students. I think teachers who sidestep their responsibility shortchange students. I’m not suggesting that teachers adopt the methods of Marine drill instructors. Those tactics work well in the military, but they are counterproductive in public schools. However, what exists now all too often is the failure of teachers to give students any grade below an “A,” or at worst a “B,” out of fear of destroying their students’ delicate egos.