Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Resilience first, zeros second.

I want to talk about one of the largest assessment malpractice that I have witnessed.  The idea I am addressing today is giving a 0 for an assignment/homework/etc. which is not completed.  When you give a student a grade of 0 for something he/she did not complete you are actually assessing behaviour and not learning.  I used the word “malpractice” because very few program of studies actually have student behaviour as an outcome.
When you allow a student to receive a 0 for work not done, a different lesson is taught than the intended one.  Students are being taught that is actually ok to pick and choose which assignments they are allowed to complete.  Is this the lesson we want our students to learn? 
Here is a solution.  If a student does not complete an assignment, inform the student “WHY” it is important he/she completes it.  Teachers must also realize, the reason of “You must know this for the exam”, actually devalues the importance of students learning “this”.  If that is the ONLY reason why a student is completing the assignment, maybe you need to rethink the assignment itself.
Assuming now there is an actual reason why a certain assignment is being completed, we want our students to learn resilience.  When a student fails to complete a certain assignment, teachers should be taking this time to teach resilience.  Giving them a 0 gets them off the hook, while sitting down with them, talking about the importance of the task and having them complete it allows for the true learning objective to be attained. 
Teachers need to make sure students complete all required tasks given to them.  I would even go as far as saying that teachers need to make sure these tasks are also completed at an acceptable standard.  Not only should the students who not complete the task be required to do it, but also the students who complete the task at a level where understanding is not demonstrated. 
Students are going to hate this, and most likely end up saying “Just give me a 0”.  If we teach students that if your best is not shown then you will complete it again, we are teaching students to always show their best.  Once resilience is taught your students, you will stop needing the number 0 as a grade.


  1. What is your stance on plagarism? I only ask because this has happened to me in a class. I had to assess the outcomes at 0 because the student handed in work that was not theirs. After I had the student stay in at lunch to redo the assignment, which was still not completed at an acceptable level, so their mark was of what they had done. I did not take into account the initial zero but that mark went home for the parents to see. So their mark was only based on the second assignment. But that's where I have trouble, see they did the substandard work and they also did the work to find a completed project from the internet to stamp their name too. It definitely becomes a slippery slope.

  2. Your 0 is punishing them for a behaviour not a learning objective. I am not saying there should not be a consequence for plagarism, but it should not be giving the student a 0