Is It Time to Move Beyond Percentage-Based Grading?
September 26, 2020
To say that this pandemic has changed life forever would be an understatement. But I’m wondering how much the world of education will be changing, too?
Like the world, I believe that learning is always changing. Eventually, schooling catches up.
Throughout the pandemic, educators have been working harder than ever. They’ve been asked to do the impossible, and, in a growth-mindset kind of way, it’s been quite the journey so far…
Translating the 3-Dimensional, in-person learning experience to the 2-Dimensional, online space is neither a seamless conversion nor an efficient transfer. Sustainability is in question.
Indeed, stakeholders are looking for help in all directions: to the past, to the present, and to the future. The process of shifting from 3D to 2D is rigorous, uncomfortable, and full of opportunity.
As educators review lesson plans of the past, they grapple with how to use those same formats, tools, and structures for present and future learning experiences. Amidst the many challenges along the way, many educators are beginning to question their own practices and pedagogy.
Here’s a recurring example of a practice coming into question: Do we really need to digitize that worksheet, or is there a better way we can teach and learn these standards, given our current circumstances? The answer and forthcoming actions to this kind of question might, indeed, be a sustainable, mindset shift that transfers to new learning opportunities well beyond pandemic times.
Another traditional, seemingly unshakeable structure coming into question is our grading practices. All over social media lately, the struggle appears to be real.
Here are a few pandemic-unveiling concerns about current grading practices featured on social media lately (paraphrasing):
- Do we penalize students for late work?
- Do we give students multiple opportunities for mastery?
- How much should homework factor into grading?
- Should students be allowed to redo work if they failed the first time?
- What about students who miss a class?
- How much do we take off for misbehavior?
- Are students earning or learning?
These were just a few examples of grading practices coming into question, as communicated on Twitter in the last few weeks.
Let’s unpack one of these grading practice concerns:
Do we penalize students for late work?
Given that educators might not know students’ at-home, off-campus circumstances, the game changes. How can you penalize students for late work when you don’t know what kinds of tools, access, or supports students are receiving at home? Is it even fair to take points off for late work during a pandemic? NO.
Yet, the real, underlying, philosophical, pedagogical, best practice question striking at the heart of educators is:
Is taking points off for late work really grading for learning or grading for tradition?
What are these grading practice concerns really addressing?
- Learning or mandates?
- Learning or behaviors?
- Learning or work habits?
- Learning or character traits?
- Adaptive processes or rigid products?
- Dynamic or static?
- Ongoing or fixed?
- Want-To or Have-To?
- Vulnerability or fear?
- Empathy or shame?
- Students or teachers?
Here’s another question I’m wondering. Check this out:
Are these concerns about grading practices mere functions of the traditional, percentage-based grading system? If so,
- What does a percentage grade really represent?
- What does a percentage grade really reveal about meaningful learning?
- What kinds of flexibility does percentage-based grading have embedded for adapting to pandemic-like circumstances?
Is it time to move beyond percentage-based grading?
Perhaps, standards-based grading or no grading with tons of feedback might be a better response to online and blended learning during a global pandemic.
Is now the time to drive that kind of change in education?
What are your thoughts?
1-Teachers Demonstrate Leadership, 3-Teachers Know the Content They Teach, 4-Teachers Facilitate Learning for Their Students, 5-Teachers Reflect on Their Practice, 6-Teachers Contribute to the Academic Success of Students, NCSSE 1-Strategic Leadership, NCSSE 2-Instructional Leadership, NCSSE 8-Academic Achievement Leadership