The Impact of Grading

I was asked to spend 90 minutes facilitating high school and middle school teachers examining the current classroom, school, and district policies regarding grading. I agreed as long as I could pose the questions and not the suggestions as to what they should do. The district agreed. Here are the questions I raised. You might use them to facilitate some conversations with your staff.

I began by asking the group to identify an example of quality learning that they witnessed in their classrooms. As they shared in groups of three or four, I requested that they identify common phrases that are used when describing quality learning. Then I presented my list of descriptions.

• Depth
• Complexity
• Detail
• Ownership/ Pride
• Constant Improvement
• Originality/ Creativity
• Integration

This discussion was followed by the question:

How do grading policies impact the quality of student work?

We next examined some of the beliefs about the role of effort.

“The growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way— in their initial talents and aptitudes, interest or temperaments— everyone can change and grow through application and experience.”
Mindset…The New Psychology of Success
Carol Dweck (2006)

That lead to this question:

What elements of students’ work, performance, behavior, effort, improvement, etc. should be considered in grading?

Next discussion point:

…while student learning can be advanced by feedback through comments, the giving of numerical scores or grades has a negative effect, in that students ignore comments when marks are also given. (Phi Delta Kappan, Vol 86,#1 pp8-21 2004)

These questions followed:

How much student work should be graded? Should homework be part of a student’s grade?

The last discussion was sparked by this quote:

“When educators can achieve consensus not only about learning priorities but also about how such priorities are measured and what criteria define successful work, students can stop fixating on the personality at the front of the room and start focusing on the task at hand.”

Allison Zumda….Breaking Free From Myths About Teaching and Learning

The final questions were:

How standardized are grades from teacher to teacher? How important is it that there is a common standard?

I’ll be anxious to hear what decisions in this district are reached as an outgrowth from this initial exploration. I can tell you that substantial conversations were generated late in an after school session. Find my power point here [GRADING] if you’d like to use in your facilitation.

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Steve Barkley

For the past 30 years, Steve has served as a consultant to school districts, teacher organizations, state departments of education, and colleges and universities nationally and internationally, facilitating the changes necessary for them to reach students and successfully prepare them for the 21st century. Read more…

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