31 July 2008

Hungry for Answers

My standards-based grading and student motivation extravaganza was yesterday afternoon. So many people showed up that the event organizers had to close the session a good 15 minutes before it was even scheduled to start. While this is certainly no testament to me (I only knew 2 people out of the 60 or so who came), it does say something about interest in grading practices. People came in to save spaces at tables more than an hour before the workshop was set to kick off. I find that heartening in a lot of ways because not all of these people were "the choir" for me to preach to. Sure, there were teachers and administrators there who had given standards-based grading a whirl, but others were there to gawk. I'm sure I gave them an eyeful. LOL

I had a middle school PE teacher chat with me for awhile when all was said and done. She said that during the break, she'd seen her supe out in the hallway. The supe asked her how the workshop was going. The teacher replied, "My brain is really fighting with itself. One half completely agrees with everything she says and the other half thinks she's crazy." (Little does she know, eh?) I had a couple of other participants make similar comments. In other words, it is so clear to them that these practices are the right thing to do, but to let go of including behaviors in grading (e.g. not giving zeros for plagiarism and making kids do the work instead) feels just beyond reach. They see the path to walk but aren't sure they have the strength to make the journey.

I spent about 30 minutes talking about motivation---and in particular, achievement goal theory. We as educators often tell students that we value their learning more than their grades---but do we really mean it? I showed them the graphic below and we talked about the idea that while we ostensibly want a "mastery approach" to classroom learning, which of these other orientations did students demonstrate?

Beyond that, we talked about the mixed messages we may be sending through our feedback to students and the posters and bulletin boards on our walls. I had one teacher afterwards say what a chord I struck with that. She realized that she tells kids all the time that she wants them to focus on learning, but when she hands back tests, she makes a big deal about how one class outperformed another. She had never thought about how those two things are really in opposition. There were lots of head nods when I mentioned things like kids throwing away their work the moment you handed it back or the "point whoring" that comes along with kids fighting for every little inch they can get. People started to reflect on that and what messages they may have unintentionally been giving kids about what they (as teachers) value.

I was truly excited to see so many people there. However, the drawback was that I didn't get to have the kind of interactive session I really wanted. Sixty people crammed into a room is not conducive for a Four Corners activity or other movement. Think-Pair-Share gets redundant in a hurry. Poll Everywhere was very well received, but as I'd anticipated, not all adults are comfortable with text messaging (although all thought this would be awesome for the classroom---and parent nights). I quickly ran out of handouts (sponsors had told me to plan for no more than 50---and I thought that even that was darned ambitious), but was so glad that I had my wiki set up so that people knew where they could get everything later. People were darned hungry for information on grading. Who knew?


Clix said...

WE did! :D

The Science Goddess said...

Maybe I need to make this a road show and do some "conslutting."

Hugh O'Donnell said...

That's exciting to hear about, SG. And the time is right for consulting on this subject. O'Connor, Guskey, Marzano, Wiggins, and Stiggins broke trail for us. Now it's time to move out. The conversation is on. In a decade it will be old news. (But, thankfully, a good practice, a common practice.)

teacherninja said...

You rock. Sounds great.