Daily Marks

Q: How can I continue my practice of giving a daily grade, while aligning with grading policies that say grades are not supposed to be about participation?

See Through Succulent by Lisa Devore, art teacher
See Through Succulent by Lisa Devore, art teacher

I love working with new teachers each year. Whether novice or experienced moving into a new setting, these teachers are eager to learn all they can to make the best of their new role. The question above was asked at a new teacher training session this week, and it’s a fantastic question.

In our schools we are working toward aligning grading practices with education research. Grades are supposed to represent learning, not completion or participation. Yet, it’s a great practice to generate some assessment data everyday, as this teacher had been accustomed to doing. She believed a daily participation grade motivated her students to work hard and provided a number of scores that could be used at grade reporting time. What’s an art teacher to do?

A: Connect your daily assessment to a learning outcome instead of participation.

You can get the same or better motivation out of daily assessment when the assessment is tied to standards, benchmarks, or indicators. Tell the students what you are looking for — evidence that they have learned [X] — and document your teacher-observables for each student just as you did your participation grades.

Here’s a big difference though. If a student doesn’t meet the learning objective you were looking for, you don’t get to make a bad mark and be done. You should provide another opportunity. Tell the student, “I’m still looking for evidence that you have it.” Reteach or remediate if necessary. Tell them how they can show you they’ve learned it, and be specific about what they need to do to and what you are looking for.

This approach continues to provide ample assessment data, but assessment data that is even more useful than whether or not the student seemed to be engaged and productive during a particular class.

Keep asking the good questions!

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