Midterms are due. Parent-Teacher Conferences are this week.
This means many, many, many, conversations about how the work of many students is C-Level or Average.
There are so many moving parts in evaluation, I believe facilitating and guiding the students in how to self-reflect and evaluate where they are is empowering our students to own their education. Here is a link to my 21st Century Skills Evaluation Forms that the students will use when they are evaluating their work.
I do not like the current conversation around grades.
I believe there has to be something better.
As a teacher, I believe we have a big problem. The problem sounds like this,
"My parents won't allow me to get anything other than an A."
"Student asking teacher if they are passing the class. Demonstrating the thinking that the teacher passes or fails the student and the student has to wait and see what the teacher is thinking or feeling."
"Parent seeing a C and parent thinking they are failing or that their student is doing something wrong."
"Teacher assigning the class to ask 5 questions, the student doing this and thinking they should get an A"
"My parents aren't going to be happy about this!"
"But I did everything you told me to do!"
So much of what education is for our students is doing exactly what the teacher says. No individual thinking. No assertiveness. No curiosity. Only doing exactly what the teacher says.
Doing exactly what the teacher says for every student to do, is absolutely AVERAGE.
I am in my second year of project-based learning (PBL) and with PBL, the traditional way of grading does not work. Students are developing questions, working with their teammates to break down the work needing to be done, being mindful of timelines and deadlines associated with the project, researching their questions and contacting professionals to be included in their work and going through processes of craftsmanship to give and get feedback on their projects; having all of this work come down to everyone getting an "A" dilutes all this really good work.
In life, everyone does not get an A. We know in our daily lives, there are people who are willing to go beyond the average and do more work, more detailed work, overall better work, these people are rewarded with more pay, more opportunities and/or bonuses. There has to be a way to differentiate between all the levels of work being completed in the classroom.
What makes this change even harder is that it cannot be because of luck or random actions. Students need to be aware of what actions they are taking to be successful. This means students need to be in constant reflection to identify what is working and what is not and continue to do what is working and stop or change what is not working. Once students identify what they are doing to be successful they need to be able to explain how it leads to a better product for their project.
In education circles we refer to Hattie when talking about what has the biggest impact on students and their education. According to Hattie, one of the areas (3rd place) that can have a lasting impact for students is the ability to self-report grades (1.33). This ability is developed through self-evaluation and being real about where they are in their learning process. The biggest impact on students is teachers estimates on student achievement (1.62). I believe students can blow this out of the water when they are giving no limits to what they can do to fulfill the projects. I believe I will see writing and overall projects that I could not dream up of assigning. Because I believe in our young people so much I am willing to challenge the status quo about grades and our work this year!
With writing this, I am not trying to say that I have solved this evaluation problem. I am saying that their has to be a better way to evaluate real work being done by the students. I cannot stand by and wait for someone else to do this meaningful work and hope change happens in the future. There are students doing this good work now that need a true evaluation process.
Mr. Dylan Wince
I am not a writer but I am writing.