This year I have posted several blogs about grading and assessment. I encouraged teachers to stop taking grading home for two simple reasons:
- Grading in isolation robs us of the opportunity to have conversations with students as we assess their work and, ultimately, makes feedback one-sided and less effective.
- Grading at home robs us of precious time with our families, time to relax, and time to create dynamic learning experiences for students.
When I tell teachers I have not taken grading home since January of last year, they are immediately interested. They want to know exactly how I have managed that as a high school English teacher.
I explain that I use blended learning models, like Station Rotation and Whole Class Rotation, to create the time and space needed to move assessment into the classroom. If students are working 0n an essay, I dedicate one station each day to providing real-time feedback as they write.
Teachers want to know what the other students are doing while I am engaged in my real-time editing station. Below is an example of a station rotation lesson for my 9th and 10th English class. I work in a 90-minute block schedule so I can move my students through four 20 minute stations. I also coach teachers who teach traditional 50-minute classes and they have a four station two-day rotation. In that model, students hit four stations over the course of two days.
When a formal assignment is due, I use my teacher-led station to have individual grade conversations with my students. Instead of leading a station, I design a self-paced hyperdoc lesson or a station rotation that does not require that I lead a station. Then I meet with individual students to grade their work while they sit next to me. I explain what I am seeing in terms of their skills and talk them through the rubric and their scores. Before we end our conversation, I turn to them and ask, “Do you have any questions?”
These grading conversations take about 3 minutes because I do not try to grade every single aspect of their paper or assignment. Instead, I select 2 or 3 specific skills to assess for a score. In the rubric below, you’ll see I’ve select claims and analysis. There are other aspects of writing covered in the rubric, but I don’t try to assess them all for every single assignment.
Most teachers I work with struggle to limit the scope of their assessments. They use complex 5 or 10 point rubrics and assess every aspect of an assignment. This is overwhelming for students who are attempting to master specific skills. [clickToTweet tweet=”Assessments are most effective when the scope is limited to 2-3 skills.” quote=”Assessments are most effective when the scope is limited to two or three skills that students can focus on improving.”]
When I assess their first piece of argumentative writing, I may only provide assessment scores for 1) the quality of their claims and 2) their analysis of their evidence. Then on the second argumentative essay, I may focus on 1) quality of their evidence and 2) analysis. As they write, they receive real-time feedback on all of their writing, but when it comes time to give them an assessment score, I keep my focus narrow.
When I lead workshops on assessment and grading strategies, there are always a few teachers who protest, “I don’t have time to provide feedback in the classroom or have grade conversations. I’m barely getting through all of the curriculum.” When I hear this, I wonder how much students learn when we race through content but do not dedicate time to supporting the development of specific skills. Students need feedback to improve their skills. This should happen in the classroom where the teacher can act as a coach.
Teachers who are tired of taking stacks of grading (real or virtual) home and want their feedback to be more meaningful should use the new year as an opportunity to explore different approaches to teaching. Using video content, multimedia lessons, and technology tools combined with blended learning models can create more time and space for teachers to work directly with students.
If you are interested in learning more about blended learning models, check out my book Blended Learning in Action.