You have the potential to screw everything up.

I am currently enrolled in a grad program with in this I am taking Assessment in Education.  Assessment is often a focus in the blogosphere.  Want some good stuff?  Dan Meyer has some Stardards Based Grading stuff that I followed my first year, Jason does, too.  Shawn Cornally has  SBG and tons of stuff on feedback, in fact he designed a whole new feedback program called Blue Harvest.  Alfie Kohn would love it if we did away we grades all together and Heidi Andrade thinks that rubrics might be the answer.

Is that enough to confuse you?  I hope so because I am confused or at least I was.  After this class (or maybe before) I have decided this: You have the ability to eff all of this up.  No matter how solid the pedagogy is behind your practice you can still eff it all up.

Say you decide to use standards based grading.  You decide to give scores 1-4 on assessments that assessment only one skill at a time.  This is great! You are so awesome! Look at you backing up your great assessment strategies with pedagogy! You are a winner!  But say you don’t explain it to your students.  Say you don’t have time to reteach before you reassess.  Say you let students reassess 10 times and run out of new tests.  You can screw this up, in fact, you probably will.  I know I did.

Okay, you have instead decided to grade everything on a rubric.  Except Alfie Kohn is not a fan he says, “This attempt to deny the subjectivity of human judgment is objectionable in its own right. But it’s also harmful in a very practical sense. ” (From this article) But if you went to a credential or masters program you probably spent the whole time be told rubrics are great! They are the solution to all assessment problems!

So here’s what I have taken away from this class (that is probably wrong) be as transparent as possible, give as much feedback as possible, and explain grades.  To me (probably wrong) giving a kid a 4 and giving a kid an A are the same if they are not explained.  You got an A- because you didn’t master this particular topic or you got a 4 because you made this mistake.  Celebrate and quantify success on an individual basis.  Talking about how the whole class did on something is silly unless you are using it as a reflection of your own teaching.  Instead talk to students one one one as much as possible. Make sure students understand that their grade is not to be measured against others and their success is their’s alone.

And, at least at the beginning, grade in that way that your department does.  There is nothing wrong with that (to start) I have found that most departments have a system for a reason and I can find a way to do my own thing with in it.

Finally, my goal for the next couple years is to find a system that works for me because I know even if the system has the best pedagogical backing and works great for everyone else I know that I can still screw it up.


2 thoughts on “You have the potential to screw everything up.

  1. Good for you for wrestling with this. Listen to your children, empathize— My sense (from knowing you) is you’ll figure out the best way to provide yourself with information on what your students might be interested to learn next. And you’ll figure out how to provide your students with information to help them pursue their interests/goals further/more fully. Be careful to believe what you’re told works best (oh duh, I didn’t need to say that, did I!)

    i found that I could best assess by creating an environment where all students were held accountable for talking to one another, and completing (with discussion/justification) rich mathematical tasks–of which I collected to confirm what they knew, were able to do, and how they felt about themselves and their mathematical learning…

    Without any doubt, my best teaching years were those in which I genuinely told students we would together set grade goals against a class developed set of definitions for letter grades, then periodically demonstrate and reflect on midway achievements, and ultimately put to the semester report card the grade they told me they earned. It truly floored them when I handed them to fill in the grade scantron.

    P.S. Not all your credential profs told you rubrics were great. Some think they box in (i.e. constrict) thinking, focus learners on someone else’s product instead of their own curiosities… and much more. Some of those professors might think rubrics are simply for the teachers, possibly related to issues of control, possibly wishing to make things as “easy” (often hidden with code words such as “accessible” or “meeting student needs”)


  2. I went through the same ups and downs of trying to find a good grading system. I think what you have to say on this is absolutely true. No system is so good that we can’t screw it up. My corollary: many grading systems can work if done right.


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