Scott Benedict just blogged about his current Pagame system, which is essential for a CI class to flow. If class doesn’t flow, we begin to consciously learn. If we do too much conscious learning, we don’t acquire as much. In place of a participation system, I use an adapted version of Bob Patrick’s DEA. I agree with Scott and the grading experts (e.g. Marzano, O’Connor, etc.) that traditional participation scores should be reported, but never included in an academic grade, especially when using proficiency-based grading systems. There is, however, one distinction that I, Bob Patrick, and other teachers using DEA make, that justifies including it in the grade.
Bob is careful to explain that DEA is not about participation, or discipline, but instead Classroom Management; not only Management, but CI Management, which is unlike anything else the grading experts take into account. DEA creates an ideal CI environment. A student’s DEA grade reflects the extent to which the student actively contributes to that environment, as evident by their engagement. On the other hand, a traditional participation grade, though also engagement, is usually earned by doing something perceivable like speaking, volunteering, or interacting in some way. Scott hits wan outta tha pahk, acknowledging that grades “can be artificially inflated or deflated based on their level or perceived level of participation.” Agreed. With the DEA alternative, I choose to skip the entire process of awarding points for all the perceivable actions going on, and instead deduct points for perceivable violations of our DEA rule set.
I’ve observed that some students can sit quietly and understand everything, then astound everyone a year or two later with spontaneous speech. Traditional participation systems usually hurt that type of student who doesn’t do something perceivable, in which case they aren’t awarded. If that participation system is connected to a grade, it suffers. DEA is more about student accountability over their acquisition, often referred to as “doing their part.” The quiet student who doesn’t volunteer, yet responds immediately to a question is engaged. The student who proactively asks a question, or signals the teacher to slow down is engaged. In DEA, students lose points for not doing their part (e.g. the quiet student who can’t respond to a question because they didn’t signal the teacher when something wasn’t clear, etc.).
I am working under SLA principles which state that in order to acquire language, students need to listen and understand what they hear. As a result, spontaneous language production will follow. DEA isn’t a traditional participation system since many of the DEAgreements are either passive, or persistent (i.e. happening constantly without triggers). In most CI participation systems, a student triggers a reward (e.g. points, grade, reported score, etc.) by asking or answering a question. My interpretation of CI flow is that students MUST do these things in order for us to verify details and check comprehension. Unless we have telepathy, we can’t (re)establish meaning and provide students with CI if they aren’t asking or answering questions…they just won’t acquire as much if we don’t address and adapt in the moment. If students don’t acquire as much, their proficiency isn’t as high. This is how we’re able to justify including DEA as part of the grade.
In my grading system, DEA (at 10%) fills in the numbers students wouldn’t be getting for a grade if I stuck to the 7-point scale system for their Proficiency (e.g. 100, 95, 90, 80, 70, 60, 50), which many students otherwise find infuriating due to the cut-offs. I start with a 100 DEA grade each marking period, then deduct from there; 5 points for each rule violation. Those points are regained by coming in for a quick chat in Latin (i.e. more CI). Some teachers give a new 100 point DEA grade every few weeks and then restart the deduction cycle. In my experience, this diminishes the value and impact of DEA violations, and creates slightly more work for the teacher. It’s important to note that once CI flow is established, class becomes more compelling, and there are very few DEA violations as a result. This system isn’t “out to get students.”
What does his look like in practice? A student messing with the CI flow from time to time with 5 violations (-25 points, a 75), yet otherwise meeting a realistic proficiency goal (an 85) still has a grade of 92.5 (Proficiency 85 + DEA grade 7.5). That doesn’t deflate the grade, and can also be used to have some conversations about whether the DEA violations reflect a larger discipline problem, and/or why the student didn’t come in to make up the points (i.e. get more CI, and increase proficiency).
Update 1.28.16 DEA is now 50% in my 7th grade Exploratory language classes. You can read about that here
Update 8.27.17 DEA is now just rules—not graded—to make things even simpler, though I stand by the rationale if it had to be graded.