Sunday, February 9, 2014

Homework and Grading Philosophy Hits Home

My 6th grade daughter is learning to do percentages.  She has worked hard on this concept each night for the last several nights.  She simply struggles with this concept.  As she practices, I see her improve.  Each night she has gotten a little better.

If she were to be graded on her homework, what would this prove?  It would act, in many ways, as a punishment for not "getting it" right away.  But isn't that the point of learning.  If you "get it" in the beginning, then you aren't learning.  Instead, you are just proving that this didn't need to be taught.

Fortunately, she is in a class where students are given feedback.  They are not given a grade that can't be improved upon.  She will be able to prove that she has learned the concept through an assessment.  If a student doesn't get it the first time, they are given chances to redo their test.

Some teachers have expressed that students won't do homework unless they grade it.  As a teacher, I remember worrying about the same thing.  So, I asked my daughter, "If you don't get graded on the homework, then why do you do it?"  She told me "So I learn it, and so I do good on my NeSA (Nebraska State Accountability)."   The second part of that answer makes me sick (which is a post for a different time), but the first part nailed it right on the head.  When students start to see the work they do as directly related to learning, then we start to make real progress.

She struggled on percentages last week, but I am now seeing real progress in her homework.  The confusion that is involved in learning can be quite stressful for a student.  Being able to make mistakes, learn from mistakes, and improve from mistakes allows for real learning.  Instead of a game of collecting enough points to earn an A (as in many traditional classrooms), students work on concepts until they master the concept.  What a concept!
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