Tuesday, December 29, 2015

On The Web: "When Grading Harms Student Learning"

I recently read "When Grading Harms Student Learning" by Andrew Miller on Edutopia.  Since I've been thinking about how to improve my courses and have been discussing how we grade with colleagues this was right up my alley.

Miller breaks his article into 5 different areas and discusses how they each affect student learning.  First up he makes the case against zeros.  His main point here is that a zero for incomplete or not turned in work does not actually show what the student knows. I agree. However, if a student does nothing what should I do? Is it fair to other students who do the work, on time, to let someone else turn it in later? Do I have to keep the graded copies forever so the students who are still working on it don't get the answers/feedback?

His next point is in relation to taking points off for late work.  Like the zeros this makes the grade more about the students behavior versus what they actually know or don't know. I take off points for late work, but I agree with what he is saying. However I have the same issues as I did above. Especially as a college professor I need to prepare my students for the real world. Turning work in on time is a softskill that I think we are teaching. What would happen if we kept turning our grades, ieps, progress reports etc late? Perhaps there is a different way to approach this though.

Miller's third point is that sometimes we are "Grading Instead of Teaching." What he means here is that there are times where we are encouraged by administrators, parents, students etc to have lots of grades in the grade book so there's a constant update as to how a student is doing. What happens though is we spend more time grading/entering grades than we do actually teaching our students and ensuring growth. He advocates for more formative assessment and I strongly agree. I am working towards including much more formative assessment into my class.  In fact I'm presenting a session on it 3 times this spring.

Finally, Miller concludes with the idea of hope. He states it's our job as educators to help our students have hope. When they see a bunch of zeros or failures they start to lose hope.  I think this is a very good point and I'm working on how to structure my class so my students don't give up and keep working towards getting that "A."

Overall, the article gave me a lot to think about. I think many of these issues might be resolved by using game theory in my courses. I'm working on gamifying one of my classes... but maybe I could apply the game theory to my other courses to see how that goes.  Hmmm more to think about.

What are your thoughts on grades?

Thanks for reading! 

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