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Grading and Learning

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Grades should reflect and motivate learning. This book is relatable, relevant, and effective in improving educators’ assessment and reporting processes and supporting students’ motivation to learn. Understand how to grade individual assignments and give report card grades that accurately reflect and clearly communicate student achievement. Clear, concrete examples help translate state standards into curriculum goals.

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3 Chapters

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Part 1 The Basics of Grading for Learning

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“Will this count for my grade?” an anxious student wants to know. Most students start school wanting to learn, but common educational practices, especially conventional grading, conspire to change students’ attitudes as they go through school. By their later elementary school years, most students talk about grades more than they talk about learning, and this preoccupation continues through high school and beyond. As students progress through school, their dissatisfaction with and cynicism about grades increase and their belief in the fairness of grades declines (Evans & Engelberg, 1988). How did it come to this? What have we done?

The premise of this book is the implicit promise or commitment teachers make to their students: in my class, in this school, all students can learn. Students won’t all learn the same things at the same level of proficiency or in the same amount of time, but if students are in school, they are there to learn something. It doesn’t take much of a leap to get to the implied questions: So, did they learn? What did they learn, and how well?

 

Part 2 Twelve Grading Strategies that Support Student Learning

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Individual assignment grades are the “ingredients” on which you base the report card grade. If individual assignment grades are not sound, the final grade won’t be, either. The negative way to say this is “Garbage in, garbage out.” What you should be aiming for is “Good stuff in, good stuff out.” The strategies I will explain in this chapter and the next (outlined in figure 3.2, page 37) will enable you to deliver the good stuff.

Ms. Thomas taught elementary social studies. One day, her students read about different explorers and filled in graphic organizers about the passages they read. They recorded such information as the explorers’ names and dates, where they were from, where they explored, and what they hoped to accomplish (according to the textbook). The principal visited Ms. Thomas’s classroom on a subsequent day and asked some students, “What are you learning?”

“We’re learning this stuff,” one student said, as he pointed to the graphic organizers.

 

Part 3 Reforming Grading Policies and Practices to Support Student Learning

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I hope I have convinced you that grading helps keep the promise of learning for all students if (1) grades reflect student achievement of intended learning outcomes and (2) grading policies support and motivate student effort and learning. I also hope you see how the twelve strategies for grading individual assessments (Strategies 1 to 6) and combining them for report card grades (Strategies 7 to 12) accomplish these goals. If you are interested in this kind of grading, you probably want to know how districts implement learning-focused report card grading policies.

The special focus of this chapter is communication among the educators in the district as policies change and new, standards-based policies are implemented. There must be a means for everyone to know what the new policies are and how to implement them. Teachers and administrators need to work for consistency among themselves so that they are “singing off the same page.” Then, of course, they will need to communicate about the new grading policies with students and parents, and that is the focus of chapter 7.

 

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