Are We Grading for Learning?
October 11, 2020
Conversations about pandemic grading practices continue to flood social media. While there’s always a conflict, a disagreement, or a debate to tweet about, there’s still space for productive struggle and civil discourse. It’s been fascinating to watch conversations about grading, lately.
Then, it also feels like there’s a serious tug-of-war going on:
- Tradition vs Future
- “Best” Practice vs Better Practice
- Schooling vs Learning
- Being Right vs Getting It Right
- Fear vs Vulnerability
- Shame vs Empathy
According to the Twitter activity I’ve seen recently, here’s my paraphrased curation of the…
Top Five Tweeted Themes When Grading in a Pandemic:
- Do we penalize students for late assignments?
- Do we require students to turn their cameras on?
- How much should homework factor in to the grade?
- How do we make sure kids act appropriately?
- How do we punish kids for [potential] cheating?
It took me a while to realize exactly what was happening.
Wait–Is this really happening? What am I missing, here?
All five of these themes are important. Each has its place. Each inquiry might directly affect the schooling process. Each question could be featured in a dissertation, a book, or a presentation on the philosophical foundations of education. Again, I agree that all five are worthy of research.
Yet, when I look at these top five Twitter thread topics, I don’t see any evidence of grading for learning. I see data points for work habits and conduct. While work habits and conduct matter, and while they might build character traits like responsibility, and while they might accentuate work habits like punctuality and homework completion, and while they might promote positive behaviors, and while they might impact learning processes, they are not–in-and-of themselves–evidence of learning content.
Therefore, we can’t count work habits and conduct as part of the grade. Because it’s not grading for learning content. It’s grading for work habits and conduct. Right? Do you agree?
Students at Home: Pandemically-Speaking…
All work is homework. Access to tech support from family members is unknown. Access to content support from family members is unknown. Educators are guests in their students’ homes. Therefore, requiring kids to keep cameras on while off-campus might be illegal at worst, questionable at best. Something about it just doesn’t feel right. If more time is invested in checking for cheating than in connecting and providing feedback, then the approach might need to be reconsidered.
Especially through the lens of equity, are we grading for learning?
Grading is a Mindset
Transitioning into standards-based grading fifteen years ago was quite the challenge. What a process of learning a new approach! I wrote about it here.
Transitioning out of percentage-based grading fifteen years ago was quite the challenge. What a process of unlearning the traditional approach! I wrote about it here.
And, here I sit, fifteen years later, and I think I finally get it.
An epiphany of sorts, I’m rediscovering the contrast between standards-based grading and percentage-based grading, albeit, amidst a global pandemic with unprecedented amounts of online and blended formats.
Simply put, standards-based grading isn’t about standards or grading, as much as it is about contrasting content, work habits, and conduct. It’s an entire mindset, practice, and approach that grades for learning–and nothing else.
While the particular grading system mandated by the local, district, or state governing bodies is out of our control, it’s this mindset shift that transcends quantity for quality, equality for equity, and work habits and conduct for learning.
My standards-based grading journey is in My Top Five Experiences That Have Impacted My Philosophy of Education. It has changed my career. Forever.
Without a doubt, educators have been working harder than ever! To say that it’s been a transformational year so far might be an understatement. Yet, it’s way too early to start measuring the effectiveness of our current, pandemic practices. With certain uncertainty, no one knows what the future holds.
What are your thoughts on grading in a pandemic?
1-Teachers Demonstrate Leadership, 2-Teachers Establish a Respectful Environment for a Diverse Population of Students, 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 3-Cultural Leadership, NCSSE 8-Academic Achievement Leadership