Sunday, March 25, 2012
If They're Succeeding Why Do I Feel Bad?
I hate grading. Honestly, I don't let kids go on until they show me competence in an area. They must, for example, be able to show me mastery of vectors in more than one way, explaining the concept using scaling of golf courses, personal discussion, and Google forms. And they must do a great deal of personal reflection on their tasks, which I grade for understanding. The projects are the main part of the grade, and the assessments at the end are to make certain that they have been successful. If they have not been successful, I pull them out, and reteach, and let them retake the test.. That means that I pull them out DURING my class, usually, and then work one-on-one with them. And then I give them the score they earn on the retest. Then I give them an alternative way to make up the project work, which includes setting up the lab, for example, at home and then bringing in their data, or their edible race car, or whatever it is.
So if I fast-forward to the end of the semester, I have kids who 'normally' get Cs and Ds but who have worked hard for me and have scored As and Bs. And if they retested and 'got it', so what if I don't have low scores? But when I post grades, that nagging self-doubt of argument works like this:
"Is learning about trying to weed out the As from the lower levels, or is it about checking to see for their understandings? Am I giving out As because I believe in their competence? What does an A mean, anyway?"
The content I teach kids is deep and focused on the essential concepts found in the Iowa Core. The ideas I want my kids to have are based first in relevancy, grounded in project-based learning, and evidenced through daily work, collaboration, and honest dialogue. It should be designed to help kids to think about their thinking as well as helping them to succeed.
If what I am doing is right, most kids SHOULD be succeeding at an A level, at least in a definition where A translates from competency. I should be reveling in the idea that my kids know what is expected, I work with them to get it, and I check for their understanding. But not many people do it this way. Perhaps that bothers me most of all.
And that question haunts me: Am I doing it right?