Saturday Morning Assignment

Our first task of the day is to find something to read on Google Reader, blog about it, then tweet. So I went back to an article I read by Scott McLeod on assessment 

High school grading: Mastery v. handing things in

One of the students in my data-driven decision-making class (for discussion purposes, let’s call her ‘Jen’) posted this in our online discussion area:

Most grading at the high school level is more reflective of responsibility (just handing things in) and not on whether the student has truly mastered the content.

There are a lot of issues embedded in this short sentence. For example…

  1. What does ‘true mastery of content’ mean (or look like) for secondary students?
  2. Does high school grading really get at the idea of student responsibility?
  3. If yes to #2, is ‘handing things in’ a good measure of student responsibility?
  4. Does student regurgitation of low-level factual recall items on quizzes and tests constitute ‘handing things in’ or ‘mastery?’

What do you think? Do you agree with Jen’s initial statement?

So here was my response to this post:

I was just thinking today about how I used to assign a business letter on the first day of my grade 12 English class. The purpose was for students to introduce themselves to me. I gave them a template and a model to follow, but I didn’t really “teach” the business letter.

And then I marked it.

“What the heck were you thinking!” I asked myself. “How can you mark something that you didn’t teach?” Well if I don’t mark it, they won’t see it as valuable and therefore won’t hand it in.

So now I would say to the old me, “There needs to be another reason for them to hand it in other than for marks. If you can’t come up with a good enough reason, then it’s probably not a valid assessment. And if you’re marking something that you haven’t taught, then you’re an evaluator–not a teacher.”

I would really like to see some innovative suggestions to get students to see the value in assessment that is not grading, ie. ways to get around assigning a mark for being responsible when that isn’t a curriculum expectation.

In our board’s report cards, we are asked to record learning skills but they don’t factor into any overall grades.

Should there be a separate grade for learning skills? Are students mature enough to understand the importance of completi

ng formative assessments for reasons other than grades? How do we make it matter?


4 thoughts on “Saturday Morning Assignment

  1. Thoughtful post, Danika. I struggle with point number 4 of your entry. It seems to me that factual recall is less and less important in a connected world where the answers are everywhere. Wouldn’t it be a better activity to have students look for answers and then develop the skills to evaluate whether or not they are accurate?

  2. Danika,

    I thought the same thing [passion for motivating boy writers] when we spoke briefly. I’ll be watching and learning…


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