Saturday, September 7, 2013

Shift in Thinking: Homework and Grades

In education, it is difficult to make changes due to misperceptions.  Everyone has been in a school and often have an opinion based on their own experience.  Misperception of homework and grading practices can make promising practices difficult to implement.

Homework
Past-Students got homework.  This homework may be a worksheet, crossword puzzles, series of problems, paper, project, etc.  The teacher assigned the homework.  The homework was graded.  Incomplete homework was given a zero.  Late homework was given a reduced grade. Task in-Grade out.  The task may or may not be related to identified essential learnings.

Promising Practices-Students get practice problems or assignments to work on at home and in school. These assignments are to assist the student with identified essential learnings.  If not completed, the student may not perform as well on the in class assessment.  Work completed during class is given immediate feedback and instruction is altered due to students comprehension.

Misperception-School is easy today, students have no consequence for not doing homework.  How will students learn responsibility when deadlines are extended and students can redo an assessment?  What is the motivation to complete the work?

Reality-In class assessment will show the ability of the student.  Students must practice to get better.  The best consequence for incomplete practice is completing the practice if the student is unsuccessful on the in-class assessment.  Homework is not a game of completion but rather essential for mastering concepts.

Shift in thinking-Failure is an important part of the process.  In class assessments allow teachers to understand the ability of the student.  Failure is not forever.  The date of mastery is less important than the mastery itself. Instruction is adjusted based on results of assessments.

Grading
Past-Students are graded on a combination of homework, quizzes, tests, and projects.  Students will be rewarded for completion, at times students are even given a check off grade.  Students will be punished with grades when they do not complete an assignment.  Students complete a task and then are given a grade.  The grade is final, the concept is not re-taught.  When a student struggles, she might be given bonus to improve her grade.  The bonus may or may not be related to the topic of the class.  Grades are given to complete tasks so it makes sense to give a grade for bringing Kleenex to class.

Promising Practices-Students are graded on identified essential learnings.  These grades do not come from homework.  Homework is practice.  Grading while still learning a concept is counterproductive.  Getting a grade on an assignment meant as practice might lead to a lower score in the class due to not understanding the concept from the beginning.  The source of the final grade should be mastery of a standard or essential learning.  Feedback is more powerful than a grade.  Students are given opportunities to improve and show mastery.  Failure is not permanent.

Misperception-Grades motivate students.  Students won't complete assignments without a grade. Grading helps students become responsible.

Reality-Grades motivate high ability students.  Students do complete assignments unless it is busy work that does not lead to better understanding of the essential learnings.  If a student does not master a concept, they must re-do the practice and the assessment.  Students find it easier to do the practice the first time.

Shift in thinking-It's not when it's learned, it's that it's learned.  Failure is a requirement of learning.  Teachers must promote a growth mindset.  Students can't be perfectionists.  Perfection prevents stretching yourself beyond your comfort level.  Grading that punishes students for trying something more difficult is counterproductive.  Growth comes from failure.  Grades should not punish early failure.  Rather, grades should reflect the end result of the failure/learning cycle. Feedback is more important than grades and leads to greater growth.  Feedback gives students direction, learning from both success and failure.


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