| Volume 69 | Number 3
Effective Grading Practices
EL Study Guide
Probably anyone who's been through school has vivid memories of receiving grades. And for many, those memories involve grades that were unclear, didn't measure actual learning, or were otherwise unhelpful. This issue of Educational Leadership encourages teachers to reconsider their own grading practices by deciding on the purpose of grades, examining whether their own practices achieve that purpose, and then transforming their practice accordingly.
What's the Point of Grading?
Before making changes to grading practices, it's important for educators to step back and ask some difficult questions about the purposes of grades. In "Starting the Conversation About Grading" (p. 10), Susan M. Brookhart suggests ways that teachers can begin the conversation.
- What do you think the purpose of grading is? Is it to communicate students' academic achievement to students and parents? Is it to motivate students to put forth their best effort? Some combination of both? How might that belief affect your grading practices?
- On p. 14, Brookhart offers a list of discussion points to begin the grading conversation. Using one of the conversation techniques on p. 13, start a conversation with your colleagues about one or more of the discussion points.
- Once you've established, on your own or with colleagues, some ideas about the purpose of grading, consider what steps you might take to align your grading practices to these purposes. Who needs to get involved in the conversation? What additional training or support might you need? Thomas R. Guskey's article, "Five Obstacles to Grading Reform" (p. 16), lists several commonly held ideas about grading that you may need to consider as you move forward.
When at First They Don't Succeed…
If educators' goal is for students to learn, does it matter if it takes some students a little longer than others? Allowing students to redo assessments is one way to give students another chance if they haven't demonstrated mastery of the material on their first attempt. In "Redos and Retakes Done Right" (p. 22), Rick Wormeli makes a case for allowing students to redo assignments until they're satisfied with their own performance. Myron Dueck explains how he got over his own reluctance to allow retakes in "How I Broke My Own Rule and Learned to Give Retests" (p. 72).
- What's your current policy on offering redos and retakes? How did you arrive at this policy? Reflecting on the ideas Wormeli and Dueck present, how might you change your policy? If you don't offer retakes, what steps might you take to introduce them in your classes? If you do, what new ideas do you have for making the practice more effective?
- Discuss some of the common objections to allowing redos and retakes. How would Wormeli, Dueck, and others counter these objections? Which arguments—for and against—do you find most compelling?
What Do Your Grades Show?
That single letter—or number—on a traditional report card carries heaps of information. This one mark may convey what students know at the end of the semester (whether they learned it in class or knew it already); how much effort put into their work; how cooperative they were during class; and even how often they left class for restroom breaks and whether they brought in classroom supplies like tissues or markers for extra credit. Several authors in the November EL suggest ways for better communicating the meaning of grades.
- In "Grades That Show What Students Know" (p. 34), Robert J. Marzano and Tammy Heflebower offer four recommendations for implementing a standards-based grading system that demonstrates what students actually know, instead of what work they have completed and how compliant they were during the semester. How might you apply these recommendations to your grading practices? What challenges do you foresee, and how might you surmount them?
- In "Reporting Student Learning" (p. 40), Ken O'Connor and Rick Wormeli assert that grades should be accurate, consistent, meaningful, and supportive of learning. How well do your grades meet these criteria? What changes could you make? Decide on one adjustment you could make and develop an implementation plan.
Tell Your Story
In this month's "Tell Me About…" feature (p. 90), readers share their own stories of grading and being graded and how those experiences were motivating—or not. Take a little time to reflect on your own grading experiences, both as a student and as a teacher.
- When you were a student, did getting grades push you to learn, to earn points, to be more compliant—or did they cause you to shut down? How has this experience informed your own grading practices?
- As a teacher, what responses to grades have you observed among your students? How have these responses affected the way you grade?
Copyright © 2011 by ASCD