Thursday, 17 November 2016

A Grade or Learning or Both?

It has now been almost 2 weeks since students submitted their final research papers. Our school has a policy of returning student work within 4 class meetings, so that should be about now.
Two students recently asked when they would get the grades for their paper: I can only hope they were looking forward to the constructive feedback that will carry them forward, rather than a number or letter to say how they compare with others.
Unapologetically, learning always comes first in our classroom and at this point we have much work still to do to ensure this writing learning goes deeper than it has previously.
As I sat down to grade the papers, I realised that - just as students had done before with their vlogs - they had not checked their writing against the rubric. This was despite recognising and reflecting on this omission in their blogs at the time, and having been given class time to do so. So we stop. We regroup. And we do it properly. Yes, it takes longer. Yes, it is more challenging, but our students would not be here were they not equal to the task.
For sure, my unplanned absence - due to the rampant virus that has been circulating in our community - has slowed us down somewhat. However, if we want to learn from the past, we know that simply putting a grade on a paper and moving on is not enough. If it were, I would not now see research papers without thesis statements, topic sentences or conclusions.
Today, we started the process of reading the rubric in detail, and marking our papers to show how each of the criteria has been achieved....or noting where it has not. Where a feature has been omitted, students know this needs to be included before resubmission. In some cases, this will mean simply adding the aspect; for others, it will mean some more learning needs to take place. Thankfully, all our lessons are archived on Google Classroom, and there is a collection of videos on EdPuzzle so students can work on the writing skills most relevant to them. (This is one of the great benefits of being in a school where students have such open access to technology.)
Following these steps means that when the papers reach my eyes, they will absolutely be the best each student can do, rather than a collection of misreadings, misunderstandings and oversights. That will then allow me to give them valuable feedback to ensure growth and progress, rather than reminders to add in the obvious.
As a parent, I suggest any discussion around their research papers focuses on what students believe their goals are and the plan they have to reach them - hope is not enough. We need action, and we want to encourage students to find or ask for the support they need. If we can encourage them to be in the driving seat of their learning, they will be much more likely to feel accomplishment and motivation to challenge themselves further. Then, the grade they achieve really will be reflective of what they can do, rather than an inaccurate reflection of something rushed to meet a deadline. I know our students are going to rise to the challenge and end this process with something to be justifiably proud of.
As always, happy learning!

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