Having “The Talk”

I have been putting off “the talk” with my students for so long. For three weeks now! But the time has come.

We need to talk.

About grading.

How have I gone three weeks without talking about grades? Well, through a strategic methodology of giving students interesting work to do, vague handwaving about things like “participation” and “homework completion” and, of course, out and out delaying.

“Don’t worry about it. We’ll talk about that later.”

Well, later is finally here. The real reason I’ve been waiting is because I literally haven’t graded anything students have done until this week. They’ve been doing work in class and homework and I’ve been assessing what they know like crazy, but I have. not. graded. And why should I? They’ve been learning new things; they’ve been practicing. You don’t grade practice. You just don’t. I go around with a roster and check off who’s done the homework and make little check-marks when someone puts a warm-up problem on the board. I’ve even given them rubrics for them to self-assess their written work and their collaboration. But I haven’t graded diddly until their first quiz this Thursday/Friday.

Now that they have something graded in their hands [or rather, they will have something, on Monday] it actually makes sense to talk about grades. They can look at this quiz and it’s a concrete discussion: “I need to do this,” versus an abstract discussion: “If I do this, then I need to do that.”

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am using Active Grade, rather than my school’s online gradebook. Since I’m doing things differently, it behooves me to explain clearly to students just what I am doing and why. Oh yeah, and my Academic Dean is making me as part of the conditions of the deal. Not that I wasn’t planning on doing this anyways.

So, I have been working on articulating my grading policy for students (and parents) and the process has been really fruitful. Here’s my handout explaining my version of SBG. I’m pretty pleased with it.

And if some of the language in my handout seems really familiar, that’s because I lifted most of it from a couple of similar documents people sent me in an earlier call for assistance. However, I didn’t copy/paste citations when I stole your text, so I don’t remember whose is whose! Sorry.

If you recognize your work, let me know in the comments and I’ll update.

One thought on “Having “The Talk”

  1. I am a future secondary math teacher in the SEC-MAC program at the University of Michigan. Your grading plan is fantastic to read about. While I am learning daily of new concepts to teach with a student-based philosophy, my education continues to be based on the principal of “difficult represents good.” I am entering this field to encourage students to see the opportunities in mathematics and reduce the pressure of failure. I look forward to following your progress throughout the year and reading the feedback and success from the student’s perspective. A 5-point scale seems ideal for having an understanding of where you are as a student and where you need to be. The time-constraint note was also very valuable. While the concept may sink in later, a little ambition to master the task before moving too far into the next topic may help eliminate a domino effect of retakes. Best of luck in your classroom!

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