Making the Grade

All, Teaching Tips

I am sitting at my desk filled with equal parts excitement and trepidation. In just a few clicks I may discover how well my grading experiment inspired by Starr Sackstein and Caitlin Tucker will work. Will it be a disaster? Will it be a success? Will it fall somewhere in between. Already I worry that I have not encouraged students to focus on growth and development in their grade reflections.

To this point, the biggest change in the way I teach is simply by altering my syllabus. Instead of having one or more assignments focused on encouraging community support, reflection, and self-assessment I have only the large assessments (essays and a project). The intent is to build those key elements of community support, reflection, and self-assessment into the grade for each assignment. As we worked our way toward this point, the culmination of our work on the first unit, students interacted and supported each other both in class and online and awarded badges to recognize those who were helpful and/or inspirational. Then a few weeks ago we worked together as a community to determine the standards we would use to assess both the work of the unit and the final deliverable. Both the badges and the collaboration on assessment standards have been a part of my class structure for a long time, but this semester we added in a new element. After students completed our class workshop where the class gave feedback on deliverables using those standards the students were then charged to not only polish the draft of their deliverable based on this feedback and experience, but also craft a reflection about how their work meets or exceeds each standard, provide evidence to support their claim, and then make an argument that they should receive a specific letter grade for the unit.

Now I need to check into Blackboard to review their arguments and evidence in preparation for grade conferences tomorrow when we will decide together what grade they should receive. Will I need to spend an agonizing day crafting counter-arguments? Will I need to spend the day nagging laggards? Will I enjoy a day celebrating lessons learned and achievements made? Will this week of conferences be full of joy and interesting conversations or have I simply traded in one form of drudgery and misery for another?

Artwork via IHE.


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