Prepare yourself this is a long one….
Over this semester and this field experience I can’t believe the change in my own philosophy in a short amount of time. I was a strong believer that students should be responsible for their own work and that if they don’t hand it in then the student should get a zero. Through this class and my fieldwork, I have realized that students shouldn’t be graded on behaviors but the actual work they hand in. I do believe though that there are some cases where zeros have to be given. In one class I taught during my pre-internship I was talking with the teacher about the little quizzes she hands out and what happens if a student misses the quiz. She allows students to come in during lunch or during their homework period but the student has to make the arrangements themselves. They literally have until the end of the year to make up quizzes that they missed however, there are students she said who never take advantage of these opportunities and, unfortunately, get a zero in the end. I think that in these circumstances zeros have to be given out. If a student doesn’t want to take the help that a teacher is giving, there is only so much a teacher can do to help a student.
Along with zeros, I don’t agree with giving late marks. Why would students hand in an assignment if they know so much is being taken off because it’s late. I don’t think teachers should be chasing down students who haven’t handed in assignments, but if a student hands something in a couple days late, I’ll accept it. I saw this interesting post on Pinterest where a teacher had a “late” binder, where each student had a piece of paper in it and if they didn’t hand in their assignment on time they would have to fill in what assignment was late, why it was late and when it is expected to be finished. I think this beneficial because it allows a teacher to see who is handing in assignments late and if you have a repeat offender, it can give you an insight of what’s going on. Maybe they need more one on one time, maybe they need help getting organized or something else but this way a teacher might be able to help.
I also believe that we should move away from being a grades driven society. In this article, this teacher does not assign grades to student work until the very end when he absolutely has to. But the part that really got to me was the quote “Why do English teachers get rough drafts but math teachers never allow students to have rough drafts”. Why do we grade students on sometimes their first attempt in math? In my pre-internship, I was able to witness a different set up for a math class that doesn’t focus on the first try but instead the last.
In the Workplace and Apprenticeship 10 class (WA 10) I was in the students had to take control of their own learning. This course was split into 7 mini units and each unit had what they called the essentials, which was the basic skills that every student would need to know to pass the course. They would show their knowledge through completing workbooks (usually 4 or 5 per unit), but if the student had any corrections they had to fix them before they would be counted. After they had completed all the booklets and fixed any corrections that they might have had, they would do a check-in, which was 10 multiple choice questions. If the student got 7 or higher on this check in they automatically received 55% on this unit. It wouldn’t matter how many corrections they had to do, how many times they had to write the check in or what score they got on the check in (as long as they got at least 7) they would receive at least 55%. There was another task for the student to do, so the high achiever could improve their grades even more through applications, a test and/or a unit project.
This setup provides equitable assessment and evaluation for students. It allows students to work at their own pace and take control of their own learning. It allows them to complete as much as they are capable of and for some students, this would just be completing the essentials every unit. If a student is struggling there is plenty of in-class time to finish the minimum work required and for students who move quickly through work, the booklets are printed off well in advance that they don’t have to wait for the teacher to give instructions.
Giving students the ability to show their learning in a variety of ways (booklets, test, applications or project) allows teachers to get a better understanding of actually what the student knows. As well I love the fact that the students have fixed their corrections on their essentials and they are given the option to fix them on their applications. Not every student will be able to understand the concepts the day you teach them but every student will be able to learn them eventually. I honestly could see myself using this format in my classroom, I love how it differentiates for students and students have to take control of their learning. At the beginning of each unit every student is given a student contract, so from the beginning, they know what is expected of them and they have to decide how much effort and time they want to spend. If I could change anything I might consider doing a variety of activities for the essentials instead of booklets every time. As well to do the project the students must do the applications and test but I would like to try allowing students to pick or choose which tasks they would do after the essentials. The last week I got to do a hands-on activity with my student for a section of the unit which I think went over really well, so I would like to try at least on hands-on activity for every unit. I believe that my assessment and evaluation philosophy fell closely in align with my practices, but I also believe that my field experience helped define it even more.
To sum it all up 3 key learnings that I took away from ECS 410 and my field experience are:
1. Formative feedback is essential but it can be overlooked when a grade is assigned. We live in a grade-driven society, some students don’t care about what they learned as long as they memorized it long enough to pass a test or an assignment. If we want to move away from the importance of grades and to the importance of student learning we have to start giving more formative feedback to help the students
2. Zeros and late marks aren’t teaching responsibility. I still believe in some cases that zeros might have to be given but before it gets there a teacher should give multiple opportunities to help them (make up tests, lunch hour work periods, etc.)
3. Allowing students to show their learning in multiple ways is the right way to go. Not every student is the same so not every student will be able to express their learning the same way, so why do we force everyone to write tests? If given a variety of ways to show their knowledge will increase student engagement as help students learn essentials skills.
So this is it, my journey through pre-internship. What I learned, what I liked and what I plan on doing. Internship is coming fast and I can’t wait 🙂