31 July 2012

Project Based Learning: Grading

Grading Philosophy
This offseason I wanted to come up with a better way to grade. I want students to learn a number of things in my classes, little of which is the content itself. I want them to learn to be creative. I want them to learn to deal with deadlines, with bosses, with clients. I want them to learn to cooperate. Above all I just want them to learn skills to make them successful in the future, which includes further education and then the job force.

But I have around 200 students every day, so I have to come up with a more efficient way to encourage that kind of growth. That's what this little two-sided piece of paper is meant to do. I have yet to test it, but by forcing myself to share it on this blog, it helps me see potential downfalls.

The Bi-weekly Unit Grading Page
Let's start with the front. The usual name/period goes at the very top, followed by the unit, page due date (when the student has to turn in the paper itself, not the assignments and projects on the back), and a spot for the grade for the front page.

On this first page are spaces for terms, software menu items, buttons/tools, and software shortcuts. These are taught a few at a time in conjunction with a small daily assignment.

I leave the entire thing blank on purpose for a few reasons, the most important of which is added retention when a student writes or draws an idea. Another benefit of the blank page is that I can add or subtract items from a unit if necessary. Finally, receiving the same sheet of paper gives students the right amount of predictability, but they'll never quite be comfortable because the information will change so much from unit to unit.

One of my many weaknesses last year was that I didn't take advantage of my TA's. I simply didn't plan ahead enough to be able to use them very often, and a lot of the grading I did was subjective and complicated. I also never required students to take notes for whatever reason, and students would be asking me questions about what I just barely showed them in class. This gives students accountability for notes, and it provides them with a go-to source for the most common questions. It also allows me to pass on a significant portion of grading to my TA's, leaving me with more time to do more effective things.

Grading Assignments and Projects with Feedback
Now let's move on to the back of the page. Each unit will have several small daily assignments that focus on just a few tools. I want the focus to be on gaining experience with those tools. They either use the tools, or they don't. They either turn in the assignment, or they don't. So when I see the completed assignment, which shows technical ability, they get credit.

But at the same time, there will always be those students that do the bare minimum and show so little care for it. But they still completed it, technically. Then there are other students that put a lot of effort into making the assignment great, or I see that they help their neighbors understand the assignment. This is where the +/- comes in. Academically, their grade is the same, but I keep track of + and - and it goes toward their citizenship grade. I want students to learn tools as well as be a good class citizen, so by showing it on their grades, it will encourage more of it.

Moving on to the project portion of the sheet. In my mind, the real goal of this class isn't to teach technical skills, but rather to use whatever tools they have to create something great. This cannot be accomplished with a checklist. I've had so many teachers that gave projects like that. After all, it makes for objective grading. But it doesn't teach anything beyond jumping through hoops. For example, a PowerPoint project might require six slides, one animation per slide, four pictures, etc. Yet I know there can be fantastic presentations with fewer slides and animations, and awful presentations that meet all those objectives.

So that's why I came up with this grading style. I suppose it's a kind of rubric but even rubrics I found tedious and hoop-like. For each project turned in, I will circle the word that best describes it from the following three sentences:
  1. Demonstrates (little/moderate/excellent) ability using the tools/software creatively.
  2. Put forth (little/moderate/impressive) effort and time into the project.
  3. Shows (little/moderate/remarkable) improvement over previous work and knowledge.
The words correspond with a C/B/A academic scheme. I take the top two grades, and translate it into a score out of 40. (A=20, B=17, C=15) That way students can get good grades through different means, whether it be skill, hard work, or improvement.

When I look at their project, can I immediately see skill and creativity? Secondly, during those few days of class time, did the student work hard despite the final outcome? And finally, are they working better or harder than they were before?

At the bottom is a section for specific teacher feedback. I don't have time to give significant feedback to every student, hopefully the three grades they see will be feedback enough, but at least a few times per semester I'll want to give personalized feedback to each student.

Keeping the Teacher Honest
And now, the check against the teacher. If, for whatever reason, students feel like they've been graded unfairly, they can anonymously voice that opinion through a survey about me. I will hold myself accountable to an administrator through these surveys, so any negative scores will be taken seriously. Below is the short survey.
  1. Instruction materials and lessons were (bad/decent/good/great) at providing me with the chance to learn.
  2. The teacher was (never/sometimes/always) there to help me when I had trouble.
  3. The grade I got was (unfair/sort of fair/very fair) based on my skill, effort, and improvement.
  4. If you felt short-changed in any way, describe it in more detail so that I can improve.
So we'll see how well this scheme turns out. Maybe I should come up with a fancy name for it. Project Based Grading. Accountable Grading.

No comments:

Post a Comment