26 June 2008

The Good Word

At the end of July, I'm doing a three-hour workshop on standards-based grading for the state. It's my first opportunity to spread the good word. I'm not quite as evangelical as Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction, however I'm not so sure that wouldn't be such a bad thing. My passion is at a fairly feverish level, but I think telling people that I'm gonna get medieval on their asses in terms of their bad grading practices might put them off. Besides, I'd look terrible in a 'fro. Therefore, a kinder, gentler approach is more appropriate, I realize, especially since the session is geared toward those who have seen the light and are just looking for some shepherding toward the promised land of grading goodness. Is that enough euphemisms for one paragraph? Shall we move on?

Anyhoo, I'm working on my presentation and things are really starting to shape up. I'm applying a UbD'ish approach to the agenda. The Big Idea is Standards-based grading practices can and should be implemented in all classrooms. There are three Essential Questions to guide the afternoon: What is the role of grading within classrooms?, What does standards-based grading "look like" in practice?, and How can we effect change in grading practices?

Beyond that, the agenda breaks down as follows:
  • A problem-based formative assessment to kick things off. I plan to use a scenario based on the truant kid to see what the various "solutions" offered are. This should give me some insight into the various philosophies and roles present. I'll share my solution, which has a nice connection to supporting motivation in the classroom.
  • From there, we're headed into examining the first Essential Question via a brief discussion of student motivation and grading in general. (Yes, based heavily on my EdD work.) I think the interesting point to ponder along the way will be "Would we have the WASL if grading practices were standards-based?"
  • The second Essential Question is where we'll spend the bulk of the time that we have. This is the "Nuts and Bolts" section. We'll start by looking at Communication Tools (equal vs. fair, grading policies, working with various stakeholders...) and then Grading and Feedback (using formative and summative information, 4-3-2-1 scales, wording and delivering feedback, getting students to reflect on improvements). It's off to the land of Record-keeping and Paper Pushing after that, including gradebooks and number crunching (more on this tomorrow). This section ends with Consequences. What do you do about student behaviors now that you aren't including them within the grades for learning? For each of these sections, I am planning various activities for the participants.
  • Finally, the last Essential Question will be addressed through a discussion of why the use of best practices in grading isn't more widespread and what we can do to change that.
  • The summative assessment will be based off the issue I had with a senior this year. This is probably the stickiest thing I've faced, especially since graduation was on the line.
Can all this be done in three hours? I think so. I tend to run my professional development at a snappy pace. My goal is for people to have several concrete pieces ready to adapt/use in their own classrooms by the end of the day. The majority of professional development I've seen regarding grading has been in presentation mode ("This is what I think and/or what I did."). Very little is participant focused ("What do you need and how can we get you there?") and I want to change that. At some point, theory needs to become practice. And we shouldn't expect everyone to invent their own wheels.

With that in mind, feel free to let me know if there are aspects to my workshop plan that you think should be added/changed/deleted. I'm really looking forward to delivering this workshop and hoping that this little flock will grow.


Unknown said...

If you are anywhere close to New Jersey, could you give me the whereabouts of your presentation? Or, if not, can you forward me your slides/notes as you prepare? I'd like to try to tinker with this next year with some teachers I work with. Thanks.

The Science Goddess said...

I'll be on the opposite coast, unfortunately. :)

I do plan to develop a wiki and post my materials for participants---so it will be a cinch for anyone who wants them to get access. I also hope that the wiki will encourage participants to share their tools so that there is a greater range of information available.