First and foremost.... "Learning can (and does) happen in the absent of grades!"...This was the biggest myth I believed for quite a while when I first started teaching. I truly believed that grades were the ONLY way learning could occur...I was wrong (the first and last time I have ever been wrong :) )
Grant Wiggin even said
"Perhaps the most counterproductive aspect of schooling as we know it is the conventional system of letter grades. The problem with grades is not the use of symbols, but the absence of any DEFENSIBLE plan for coming up with the symbol… most grades reflect what is easy to count and average into a final grade.”O' Conner brought up his 7 persepectives underlying grading:
• Grading is not essential for learning.
• Grading is complicated.
• Grading is subjective & emotional.
• Grading is inescapable.
• Grading has a limited research base.
• Grading has no single best practice.
• Grading that is faulty damages students and teachers!
I have heard many teachers express their views that grades truly motivate students into learning, however O'Conner says:
If grades are extrinsic motivators, they can destroy intrinsic motivation. Good grades may motivate, but poor grades have no motivational value.
Even further, Gusky has said:
“Low grades push students farther from our cause, they don’t motivate students. Recording a D on a student’s paper won’t light a fire under that student to buckle down and study harder. It actually distances the student further from us and the curriculum, requiring us to build an emotional bridge to bring him or her back to the same level of investment prior to receiving the grade.”
Lastly, Marzano (after researching over 8000 studies) said:
The most powerful single modification that enhances achievement is FEEDBACK. The simplest prescription for improving education must be ‘dollops of feedback’.”
And now the big finale...here are 15 "fixes" you can do TODAY to change your assessment:
#1 - Don’t include student behaviors (effort, participation, polite manners, etc.) in grades; include only achievement.
#2 - Don’t reduce marks on late work; provide support for the learner.
#3- Don’t give points for extra credit work or use bonus points; seek only evidence that more work has resulted in a higher level of achievement.
#4- Don’t punish academic dishonesty with reduced grades; apply other consequences and reassess to determine actual level of achievement.
#5 - Don’t consider attendance in grade determination; report absences separately.
#6- Don’t include group scores in grades; use only individual achievement evidence.
#7 - Don’t organize information in grading records by assessment methods or simply summarize into a single grade; organize and report evidence by standards/learning goals.
#8 - Don’t assign grades using inappropriate or unclear performance standards; provide clear descriptions ofachievement expectations.
#9 - Don’t assign grades based on student’s achievement compared to other students; compare each student’s performance to preset standards.
#10- Don’t rely on evidence gathered using assessments that fail to meet standards of quality; rely only on quality assessments.
#11 - Don’t rely only on the mean; consider other measures of central tendency and use professionaljudgment.
#12- Don’t include zeros in grade determination when evidence is missing or as punishment; use alternatives, such as reassessing to determine real achievement or use “I” for Incomplete or Insufficient Evidence.
#13- Don’t use information from formative assessments and practice to determine grades; use only summative evidence.
#14 - Don’t summarize evidence accumulated over time when learning is developmental and will grow with time and repeated opportunities; in those instances, emphasize more recent achievement.
#15 - Don’t leave students out of the grading process. Involve students; they canand should- play key roles in assessment and grading that promote achievement.
Last, Reeves says
“If you wanted to make JUST ONE change that would immediately reduce student failure rates, then the most effective place to start would be challenging prevailing grading practices.”