For the last two years, I have published several blogs detailing my journey away from traditional grading and assessment practices. The purpose of this shift was three-fold.
- I wanted to shift the conversation from points to the development of skills.
- I wanted students to take ownership of their progress and skill development.
- I do not believe grades should happen to students.
If students are going to develop as learners, then they need to track their progress, reflect on their specific skills, and identify areas that need more time, attention, and improvement.Ultimately, I want students to take an active role not only in their learning but also in the assessment of their progress as a learner.Click To Tweet This is easier said than done. Students are rarely asked to think about their learning in a metacognitive way. That’s why my students spend time each week reflecting on the skills they are developing in our class.
My co-teachers and I designed an ongoing self-assessment document that we share with our students each grading period to guide their reflections on their progress and skill development.
First, students are asked to articulate three S.M.A.R.T. goals they have for the grading period and describe their action plan for achieving these goals. These goals are designed to guide their progress and keep them focused on developing specific soft skills and academic skills over the course of our six week grading period. Too often students become overwhelmed by all of the work teachers assign and lose sight of what they would like to achieve.
The ongoing assessment has a section for soft skills and a section for academic skills. My teaching team places an equal emphasis on evaluating the development of soft skills because our program is project-based. Students work in teams using the design-thinking process, which requires that they communicate, collaborate, solve problems, take risks, and manage their time effectively.
Their ongoing assessment document links to rubrics aligned with each skill so students can read the language of a 1, 2, 3, and 4 to accurately assess where they are regarding their development. In addition to assessing their skills, they must link to work that supports their self-assessment scores and provide a narrative explanation for why they gave themselves a specific score. If they have a question, comment, or request for support, they attach a comment to their narrative explanation and tag one of us so we can follow up with them directly.
To be successful, students need time in class to reflect on their learning. Once a week, I dedicate a station in one of our station rotation lessons to their ongoing assessment documents.
The more students stop to think about their learning and document their progress, the more they focus on developing skills. They begin to advocate for themselves and articulate their needs as learners, which makes it easier for me to provide the necessary support. These ongoing self-assessment documents are also critical to their ability to prepare for our end of the semester grade interviews. If they have not spent time reflecting on their learning, then they cannot make a strong case for why they deserve a particular grade in the class.
Teachers often lament they are short on time. This process of teaching students to set goals and assess their progress as learners takes time, but the payoff is worth it. I love that my conversations with students focus on the development of skills, not the accumulation of points.