Grades vs Learning

Posted: March 3, 2011 in Uncategorized

This is a question that I have been thinking about over the past several years. How can I access student learning in an effective manor that shows what they have learned, and then put a grade to it? I have tried to remove all non-academic factors from their grades, and put a majority of (55%) it on the practical final as well as a portfolio turned in at the end of the semester. I have been reading Foundations of Meaningful Educational Assessment and read the chapter on Grades today. It really got me thinking. In my classes I have a late policy that says if an assignment is two weeks late I won’t take it. When I introduce the course I explain that this is because they will use the knowledge that was covered in that assignment on subsequent assignments, and I would like for them to be able to pay attention to the new topic, instead of perpetually being behind. Because of the number of assignments that I give, and how I focus on end of the semester knowledge each assignment is worth between 1 and 3 percent of the grade. When I was reading today it made the point that the difference between a D and a Zero is more that the difference between a D and an A, and can really affect the grade. This made me think and I have have good students that have dropped, or gotten bad grades because they missed a few assignments for one reason or another, even though they understood the material, and that I have had students pass because they had a lot of help to get the assignments done, and could not complete the final.

I have been debating changing how I have students turn in work during the semester. While I was reading today I decided that I am going to try and not grade assignments that happen while students are learning a new concept. I just don’t know how to make it work in all the classes. My main concern is motivating students to learn the material, and having them take responsibility for doing the exercises without the Grade motivation. I think I will have several assignments that will incorporate skills that I can assess, or creating a project that they can be worked on throughout the semester that will incorporate all the skills that can be turned in either in increments or at the end of the semester.

  1. Ken Baldwin says:


    I always allow late work. I figure that if the work was important enough to have my students do it, it doesn’t lose value because some teacher specified time frame (kind of arbitrary) passes. For them to do the work and learn form it is important no matter when they do it. Or else why did we assign it? My students can not get an A for any late work. But they can turn it in during that grading time.

    Good discussion point


    Ken Baldwin
    Bret Harte High School
    Angels Camp, CA

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