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Sharing assessment & grading strategies that help students learn

SHS Staff Development - 9/3/09 - The relationship between assessment and grading

This Forum Discussion was started for Salem High School's September 3, 2009 inservice on AFL.

Last year our school spent an entire year looking at AFL, at what it means, at how it can be applied to our classrooms, and at what impact it will have on our teaching and grading practices. At the end of the year there were 6 main ideas that stood out as areas for us to continue focusing upon during 2009-2010. Some of these 6 ideas were ones that we as a faculty most embraced. Others of them come from areas about which we had the most questions.

For our inservice time on September 3, the SHS faculty has been divided into small groups. Each group will discuss Idea # 1 from the list of 6. Then each group needs to reply to this discussion and share a synopisis of what was talked about in the group.

What thoughts did you have that would be worth sharing with the rest of the faculty? Have you learned something about this idea or applied it in some way in your classroom? Do you have plans for implementing this idea into your classroom practices this coming year?

Idea # 1 was:

Assessment and grading are not the same thing.

Try not to get into your mind that AFL means changing or altering the way you grade. AFL means assessing to help students learn. This can be done without grading. However, if you don’t grade well you can negate your AFL efforts.

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Our discussion group at the faculty meeting felt like this was a hard concept to originally grasp - some people felt like assessment and grading were synonymous. However, many of us have come to learn that informal questioning, exit slips, pre-testing, and other such practices are great "assessment FOR learning" tools. These practices are not used in the formal grading of each student. We also think that these informal assessment tools are great for students who have testing anxiety.
Assessment is often a means of getting to a grade. Sometimes a session of step-by-step feedback will get students to the grade that accurately reflects their learning. Assessment can be discussion, spot-checks, etc.
Assessment is for both the students and the teachers. Students should assess themselves as they go along and teachers should use their assessment to know what to cover next and where to go from there. Assessment can take on many different faces--it is part of the process. Assessment doesn't have to be formal, it can be informal and constant.
I think as teachers are always assessing. . . isn't that the name of the game? We assess everyday, to ensure students are learning the material. Assessing for me is not directly relate to grading. Grading is more the end result, assessment is what we have to do for our students to get to the grading component.
Assessing the effectiveness of your lesson need not be the same as a grade.
I still think that a big part of the assessment process involves grading, and grading remains a large part of my AFL practice. However, I do like using my "Do Now" activities and "Exit Slips" as a way to evaluate what my students learned either the previous day in class, or in class that day. I am a big fan of daily quizzes, which prepare the students for the larger tests, and my colleague, Amy, suggested giving pre-tests before the actual test. This is an idea I could see implementing in my classroom.
For me, this has really brought to life and fleshed out just how important feedback to students is. When I do something I become disengaged quickly if I do not know how I am progressing but with constant feedback I can stay engaged for extended periods of time.
My son, who is only three and cannot remain engaged in any activity at home for more than ten minutes. However a video that gives feedback tens of times per minute will keep him engaged for about 25min.
Powerschool now allows for better recording of assessments that are not graded. You can put a check in a box for "completed" (the short cut key is a period). Another way of assessing students and not having their practice factor into their final grade is to NOT check the box that says "Include in Final Grade" when you are entering the assignment information. In this way, you can record students' marks and track their progress without letting the score affect their grade.
Assessment is any type of evaluation that proves knowledge and grading is a formal check-up. With a standard grading scale students are compared evenly. Assessment is feedback and students feel less pressured when there isn't a grade attached to an assignment.
We assess in many ways without grading. We assess by class discussion,class participation, oral and written practice. We cannot grade every practice for 120 students. By putting more weight on the last assignment, we do not allow daily work to bring down the students' average.
We enjoy using points that help put more emphasis on progressive learning.
Assessment is determining what the students do or do not know about something, it is not necessarily something to be graded, but it can be.
Non-graded assessments are to determine instruction needed, whereas graded assessments are to determine students mastery of the content, and can also be to determine future re-teaching or further instruction.
For example, most Do Nows may be to determine student's present knowledge of a subject, and may or may not be for a grade. A show of hands is a non-verbal comprehension check, that is not graded, but assesses student knowledge and can determine the next stage of instruction.
Sometimes assessing what a student knows can be done through personal interviews. This allows the student the opportunity to be honest about the subject area topic.

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