Sunday, September 28, 2014

A few questions to ask yourself... (73)

1). What percent of your students are going beyond just compliance and are actually cognitively engaged in deep self-driven and relevant learning?

2). How often are students in your class offered the opportunity to move around and get 'the blood' flowing with some type of physical activity?

3). How often are kids in your class able to work in teams and work collaboratively on some type of group learning activity?

4). When was the last time you read a professional book or article and you tried something new as a result of what you read in the book/article?

5). If you had to describe the perfect and ideal classroom, what would be your top three most important characteristics?

6). How confident are you that your students could tell someone who doesn't teach what you teach specifically where they are struggling and where they are succeeding in regard to their learning?

7). Let's assume audio was recorded for an entire week in your classroom. Of all the voices that are heard during that time, whose voice do you believe would be heard the most?

8). If you eliminated all the grades in your classroom, do you think students would still actively participate and continue learning?

9). If a group of teachers from another school district who taught a similar content/grade came and observed your classroom, what do you think they would say in their post-conversation?

10). If you were the principal for the week and you got to observe every classroom in your building, what would you want to see in all the classrooms?

11). What's the ratio of consumption to creation in your classroom when it comes to the work students are doing?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Is your gradebook supportive of learning? ... (71)

When was the last time you looked at your gradebook?

Not just look at your gradebook because you are recording grades, but to actually look at your gradebook and evaluate its purpose and the reasoning behind its existence.

What is the purpose of a gradebook?

The logical answers would be...

To record and document the grades of students in a particular class.

To document how well a student did on worksheet 1.7 and record how well a student did on the chapter 4 test.

To sort and categorize our students into A, B, C, D & F grade rankings.

These answers are widely accepted and widely practiced by educators all across the globe.


What if the gradebook was more?

What if the gradebook was viewed as another tool in the student's belt for learning?

What if the gradebook gave specific and detailed feedback to students about their learning progression?

So, the challenge is, how can we use the gradebook as a formative tool in the learning process rather than a summative 'end of learning' tool that has very little if any effect on student learning?

When a student sees they received 12/20 points on worksheet 1.7, does the student really know specifically where he/she is struggling? Does the student know specifically where he/she needs to focus to master the skills/content from those 8 missed points?

When a student sees they received a 72% on the chapter 4 test, do they know specifically where and why they lost points?

What if instead of seeing worksheet 1.7, the gradebook said something like, 'determining the central idea of a text - RI.6.2?'

What if instead of seeing chapter 4 test, the gradebook chunked the test and said something like, 'finding the area of right triangles - 6.G.A.1, represent three dimensional figures - 6.G.A.4, & finding the volume of a right rectangular prism - 6.G.A.2?'

If you are an educator, a student, or even a parent wanting to help, which gradebook is going to provide you specific information on where a student is in the learning process? Which gradebook is going to encourage future learning? Which gradebook is going to lead toward an authentic and valuable conversation about how to help that student with their learning?

So, ask yourself, is your gradebook supportive of learning...?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Is it time to eliminate extra credit? ... (70)

'Is there anything I can do to get some extra credit?'

If you've worked in education for more than 20 minutes, you've probably heard a student ask this question.

Extra credit has been and continues to be a common staple in classrooms all across the globe...

Here is a personal story from Justin Tarte...

I was a teacher who awarded extra credit to my HS German students when they brought in Kleenexes, markers, and even on quizzes when they could answer random questions correctly knowing full well the questions had nothing to do with German. I even one time gave extra credit to students who brought in my favorite candy.

I saw nothing wrong with what I was doing.

Oh how wrong I was...

For the record, I openly and publicly apologize for committing a crime against assessments and a crime against my students because what I was doing was wrong on so many levels.

For one, I was reinforcing socio-economic differences and discriminating against those students who didn't have the means to buy Kleenexes, markers, and my favorite candy. Those who had the means whether it was financial or just a simple car ride, were able to capitalize on these extra credit opportunities while others weren't.

Also, a majority of the extra credit that occurred in my classroom had nothing to do with students and their learning of German. Heck, most of my extra credit opportunities didn't have any educational value at any level for that matter.

Lastly, and possibly most importantly, the extra credit I was giving was completely distorting and destroying any accuracy that I'd hope to achieve with my grading structure. I would work so hard to ensure my assessments were properly aligned and equitable for students based on their preferred method of mastery demonstration. Then, in one fell swoop, I would destroy it all by giving extra credit for stuff that didn't have any relation or connection at all to German.

What I thought was perfectly fine was anything but fine.

It was not until several years later that I recognized the error of my ways.

Here's the deal, if we want our grades to be accurate and a true reflection of student mastery and learning, then we can't muddy the waters by giving extra credit.

Also, I would urge you to avoid giving extra credit for doing 'more' of something as well. For example, a kid who does 100 math problems poorly hasn't demonstrated the same level of mastery as a kid who does 20 perfectly.

More doesn't always equal a mastery of learning...

So, are you ready to take the plunge and eliminate extra credit from your classroom?

Monday, September 1, 2014

Late work and grade reduction... (69)

A battle that continues to rage in schools all across the globe is the battle about what to do when students turn their work in late.

One camp is going to make comments like this: 

What about student ACCOUNTABILITY? What are we teaching them? What are they learning? Just turn it in whenever they decide. Deadlines really don’t matter. We are suppose to be educating them, not just on subject content.

Why shouldn’t students be penalized if they can’t meet a deadline? What incentive is there for a student to turn work in on time if there is no penalty?

The IRS doesn’t care about deadlines, right? Your boss doesn’t care about deadlines, either. Work at McDonald’s? There is no deadline for making that Big Mac, right? You can take 4 hours to make it if you want.

Do you think a college professor is going to accept a paper WHENEVER IT’S CONVENIENT for the student? How are we preparing students for the “real world?"

Why don’t the little darlings just do what they’re supposed to and turn the work in on time? Enough of this pandering to spoiled brats.

The other camp is going to make comments like this: 

What’s the point of a letter grade students get at the end of the term? Shouldn’t it indicate the mastery of the subject matter? If so, why shouldn’t teachers accept late work?

Penalties for late work distort the accuracy of the grade which has the sole purpose of communicating academic progress and mastery toward a particular standard.

It’s a false assumption that students build moral fiber and respect for deadlines by slapping them with an “F” or a 0” for work not done. This teaches nothing but resentment and cheating. 

Teachers turn things in late all the time, as do workers in every profession. The idea that you can't get away with turning work in late in the real-world isn't true.

To say it must all be done at the same level of quality as everyone else by this one particular day of this particular week flies in the face of all we know about how humans learn. We all learn at different rates and at different times.

As you can see, there are great points being made on both sides. 

But if in the end, we expect and want our grades to accurately and precisely reflect what a student is able to do when it comes to a particular standard or learning objective, then we can't and shouldn't reduce a student's grade based on when the student turns the work in. Obviously we have quarters and semesters when we eventually have to finish out our grades, but until that date students should receive some sort of 'incomplete' or 'not yet assessed' to ensure overall grade accuracy.

As educators, we should teach responsibility and accountability, but those need to be separate and not tied to a student's academic mastery grade. Academic indicators must be kept separate from non-academic indicators to ensure the accuracy and fidelity of both.

Check out Rick Wormeli's thoughts on late work below: