Updated DEA

“But it only counts for 10% of the grade” whispered a student as I pointed to our posted DEA rule agreements. I couldn’t believe it. This student really didn’t think it was important enough to Look, Listen, and Ask about Spanish just because I assigned a low grade weight! Over the course of a few weeks, I overheard the same rationale from different students who consistently messed with the CI flow of class. I had no idea 7th graders would be that snarky about grading!

So, I had to adapt my system. My Proficiency rubrics remain solid, but DEA is now 50% of my 7th graders’ Exploratory Language grade (up from 10%), and reduced to two rules; Pay Attention, and Be Prepared. The latter is only used for homework (rarely assigned) or other obligatory school stuff I don’t want in its own category. Otherwise, Pay Attention is our main focus during class. I’ve posted three suggestions on how to acquire a language on a daily basis:

Look
Listen
Ask

The suggestions provide students with some wiggle room, especially if they had good intentions (like helping a peer), or when the neurodivergent surprise us. So, I point to big posters in my room when someone talks over me or another student, or when I need to quiet the class down after some victory dance funny moment. The posters include a picture of an Eye, Ear, and Hand. This is simplicity and clarity at its best. There’s almost no explanation needed. I usually give a warning, and then it’s -5 points (which anyone can earn back after getting some more CI time with me). If a kid is staring out the window, I’m not gonna call her out. These rule agreements are for students who mess with the class in a way that doesn’t quite require disciplinary action, but certainly disrupts learning. There are stories from the trenches of a kid with his head down who ended up hearing everything that was ever said and gained complete control over the target language to the amazement of everyone. This doesn’t happen often, and most students need some guidance. DEA provides guidance, and now clearer than ever for my 7th graders.

So, what’s changed? Student-wise, they’re called out for not paying attention when disrupting class. Instead of being prescriptive like in some detailed rubrics (perhaps mislabeled “Interpersonal Rubric,” or “Participation”), the student just needs to recognize that they weren’t paying attention. When I had 6 DEA rule agreements, I observed that most students didn’t have enough metacognitive awareness to reflect on the particular agreement they were violating. In the end I just created more work for myself. Teacher-wise, the DEA process is now “are you paying attention?,” point to the posters, make a note, and move on. The big difference here is the reduction of rules. Now there’s no need to track any rules…a simple tally mark on a roster will do.

A Longer Explanation
When I started getting into grading systems, I was working with numerical equivalents of letter grades which went by tens (i.e. 55, 65, 75, 85, 95, and 100 for exceeding expectations). I found that high school students, or at least just the ones in my school, were furious that they could not earn any of the numerical grades between those cut-off values. They were a very anxious ivy-league-bound group that conveniently only worried about Latin at the end of the quarter when grades closed, but in order to make things work I developed my grading system to have DEA account for 10% (i.e. the “missing” numbers between the cut-off values). In the high schools I’ve taught, the students were mostly attentive, or at least not disruptive, and very few students violated a DEA agreement each day (3-4 max). Fast-forward to present day and I’m now in a school with a very different situation and a very different grading need.

DEA is now 50% of the grade, and Proficiency the other 50%. If it were completely up to me, I might even go as far as to grade 100% on DEA and wait until the end of the year to report a Proficiency level using my rubric. I know I know…it sounds totally Bay Area hippie, right? Truth be told, I trust the results I’ve seen from classes focused on messages in the target language delivered in an optimal environment, and DEA creates that environment. Even taking into consideration individual differences that might lie outside of the DEA rule agreements, I believe more and more every day that the DEA rule agreements are causal. When I first used the DEA system the first rule I tossed out was “No Notes.” That rule was designed to emphasize experiencing language, not scrambling to write everything down in order to cram for a test later. Why did I toss it? It doesn’t matter that research says there’s too much cognitive demand placed on students trying to write and listen in a second language at the same time. My students that year needed emotional safety of writing something down even if my assessments were all unannounced and they never consulted their own notebook after class. Students believed that they needed to write something down, so I let them. I must say that those students were the slowest language processors, second guessing themselves when responding to the simplest of questions. The other students just sat back and enjoyed the class experience (vs. consciously learning).

I truly abide by the philosophy of separating out behavior and academics when it comes to grading in education. That is, of course, for everything except languages. Languages are different…waaaay different than other content areas. Despite criticism from those who take issue with grading whether students Look, Listen, and Ask about the target language, I have not known a student who has followed the rule agreements and NOT acquired something. I have known plenty of students who were frustrated because they continuously talked to their friends and didn’t listen or read the target language during class, making it difficult for others to enjoy the target language and for me to enjoy my job. DEA addresses that, and now it’s even easier to use!

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28 thoughts on “Updated DEA

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  4. I work at a small private school where I may be able to go all out and grade the “Hippie” way – use DEA in the grade book on a regular basis, then update the grade throughout the term with exit quizzes, and again at the end of the term with a proficiency assessment. I would love to be able to do this – I want their grades to show their proficiency. I am wondering, though, what those snarky students will say when they realize that the DEA grade will ultimately get updated with the proficiency grade after the first term?

    Thanks for taking the time to keep this blog – it is so helpful!

    • Assuming you report quick quiz scores, etc., and grade DEA & Proficiency, DEA will reset at 100 at the start of each term. Proficiency is carried over each term and will increase a level or two throughout the year. I suppose you could also carry over DEA without resetting, which would have a greater impact on the overall course grade through the the year.

      At the end of the year you manually override the overall course grade to reflect Proficiency only (without having DEA grades averaged into that final overall course grade), but not each term. The manual override is to provide clarity within our cluttered, average-based “term” system, but only at the end of the year.

      Does that address your student snarkiness concerns?

      • Cool. You might also consider reporting DEA instead of grading it (just like quick quizzes). In the past I’ve set the DEA weight between 10% and 50%, so there’s no reason not to try 0% if it will work better in your environment. With Proficiency as 100%, the only difference at the end of the year would be to manually change the overall course grade to match the current Proficiency grade (DEA would still be reported each term, but have no affect on the grade, ever).

      • Right – ideally the grade is only proficiency if possible. What is “reporting” – making it a note on the report card in the comments section? If so, that would provide back up to parents and admin as to why the proficiency level is what it is, right? Though then would it lose the leverage that it had to influence behavior because it was part of the grade?

        Also, I am working my way through your longer post from last June on overall grading where you probably answer this, but I assume I would use a Novice Low rubric first quarter, Novice Mid 2nd, Novice high 3rd, and Intermediate Low 4th (for 8th grade Spanish I)? Or, do I pick a different rubric for each student after they have been in class the first few weeks based on how they are processing/acquiring and tell them their goal is to scoot up from there?

        Assessing and evaluations are the last big piece of the CI puzzle for me (in my third year of CI) that I really need to get a handle on. I know my kids are learning language, but 1. there is usually one per section that for one reason or another really shouldn’t move on, 2. some transfer out and need something accurate to place them where they are going, 3. some transfer in (ugh, this is an issue I struggle with), 4. I need something solid to discuss with parents and admin and students to show them their growth – and I don’t have that in place yet. Luckily everyone is pleased with results, my grading is just based on little comp quizzes and growth in their 5-min writings, and no one has raised concerns yet.

        Back to your june post now…

      • Read the latest Reporting Scores vs. Grading

        Definitely read through the 4 or 5 posts covering this stuff, but there is NO WAY your Spanish 1 students will reach Intermediate Low. That is an expectation after 4 years of language in high school that some students never achieve. Just set a Proficiency Goal for each course year (that’s why I’ve been saying that a student might only increase one or two sub levels in one year). For 8th grade Spanish 1, a goal of Novice Mid isn’t unreasonable.

      • Perfect – yes I just read your point about taking two years to get out of Novice. This is so helpful – about everything I have been reading is about the teaching method but I have been struggling with what my expectations have been – I knew they were acquiring but how to judge progress and give it a grade? This has been IMMENSELY helpful. I may even try to see if I can get with the admin and see if they will let me manually change grades for past terms this year…!

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  8. Hi Lance,
    It is me L.A. again. Two years ago, I read and asked you many questions about your grading system which you were so kind and patient to answer.
    At the time I tried, unsuccessfully, to implement this system. Now I’d like to give it another go, but am still stuck at the place I was then:
    –even though our school is moving into PBG, we are still required to show a number grade at each marking period (progress reports, quarter, semester midterm, final, etc.).
    How do you solve this when all assessments go into a 0% category? Every one expects a number at each instance.
    Thank you.

    • You still need at least one grading category that affects the course grade—that’s what you’re missing.

      Everything you score (e.g. quizzes, tests, homework, projects, etc.) go in 0% grading categories, but Proficiency, for example, would be 100%. Have students self-assess using the rubrics after the first week. Everyone should get an A, feel good and not drop you class, and you’ll have a course grade in the gradebook. Have them self-assess again at each marking period.

    • Also, since you’re replying to this “Updated DEA” post from 2016, you should know that my 2017 DEA will not be graded at all (just rules), so Proficiency will, indeed, be 100% of the course grade.

  9. Thanks for your response.
    This is difficult for my little head:
    Quarter grades are the result of students self assessing for proficiency?
    How can they get a 100 either at the beginning of the year or at any given quarter, when they haven’t moved up the proficiency level yet?
    I can see not using the DEA at all and leaving those components to the school wide “habits of work” rubric, or even a classroom “habits of work” rubric with some group reward every other week or so.

    • My Proficiency Rubrics are based-on language you’ll find in ACTFL documents that were, themselves, based-on the decision of committees—not research, or necessarily a reflection of reality.

      I do not claim to give students a proficiency rating like on an Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI), but given the scope of just a week, students can show evidence of being at one of those proficiency levels AT LEAST FOR THE PURPOSE OF A GRADE (there’s a chance someone will misinterpret that as yelling, but I can’t seem to get italics in a comment).

      You might be placing more emphasis on what grades actually mean than I do. See this presentation for more insight: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxlEdumlZ-b0R0pmbWQyaDZsSEk/view?usp=sharing

  10. Ok,
    I could care less about grades, personally. My school and district however, are soooo into grades even when they say they want to go to the proficiency based diploma.
    I’m not explaining myself.
    I like using the proficiency levels as criteria for a final grade and moving up one (or two–ha, ha) levels.
    My problem is how do I show a number when the quarter rolls around.
    You say students self assesses. Based on their 0% weighted category of quizzes and what not? With a different rubric?
    Before writing to you, I read and re-read everything you posted. I see great potential for me using proficiency as the goal and grade, I don’t know how to translate this end of year goal into a grade at each marking period.

    Thanks for taking the time with my questions.

    • There are two separate things; the 0% Portfolio, and however many grading categories you need. For this example, and what I’ll be using this year, I’ll show only one, Proficiency:

      1) 0% Portfolio
      2) 100% Proficiency

      The Portfolio is for everything and nothing—the kind of stuff that people typically expect you to grade. Instead, score these things and have them there for people to look at. Use this Portfolio when parents ask “how’s my kid doing?,” to show you’re doing your job, and as evidence in determining the quarterly course grade (i.e. ONLY as evidence IF a student self-assess themselves above or below an A, and you have to have a meeting with them to look over their evidence). When students self-assess using a rubric (https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0BxlEdumlZ-b0VVNQeWozT0M2VG8&usp=sharing), they don’t need to review anything in the Portfolio. Most kids are going to circle the grade they want anyway, regardless of the criteria.

      I think you are conceptualizing the Proficiency Goal, say Novice Mid, as something that cannot be achieved until the end of the year. Instead, I find that students meet and maintain (or exceed, hence, a 100) showing signs of Novice Mid from the start of the year.

      • Thank you Lance. I really appreciate your time and effort trying to make me understand.
        I still struggle with the number grade at each marking period. My school would not accept everyone getting a 95 and the grade driven community would also not accept an 85 (as in progress proficiency).
        I think I won’t be able to implement this after all.
        Thanks much.

      • “My school would not accept everyone getting a 95”

        LOL, that’s one of the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. Sorry you’re in such a backwards community. The fact that you must give grades at all means that your school thinks it reflects success, so that statement means that the school expects students to be unsuccessful.

        If you can’t use this system of student self-assessment, and portfolio evidence to back up grades, you might as well just assign grades willy nilly.

        I haven’t met anyone who hasn’t been able to use this system, but it takes tweaks sometimes. It sounds like your kids expect a 100, but the school would give you a hard time with so many high grades. If that’s true, you need to discuss this with your admin. Otherwise, we can work out details of what—exactly—students at your school are expected to receive each quarter if neither a 95-100 nor 85 will do.

      • They think that if everyone is getting the same grade (and such a high one), there is not enough differentiation going on. How can Tommy be getting a 95 when the evidence shows his quizzes are at a 75.
        I’ve received criticism for high grades before.

      • Your school has a systemic problem. Differentiation does NOT mean some students fail and some excel.

        Aside from what’s out my control there, it sounds like you would have to let go of some concepts before changing your grading system. A 75 on a single quiz means nothing when using scores in a Portfolio to inform trends (i.e. not individually averaging into a course grade). Multiple scores of 75 show me that the student understands MOST of the target language MOST of the time. How is that not meeting expectations for the novice? You (and your school) would have to let go of the 0-100 mindset to realize what these numbers mean. To begin doing so, you must ask these questions:

        1) What are the expectations of students in this class?
        2) Should students NOT get an A if they meet expectations?
        3) Is it unrealistic that all students can meet these expectations?

      • Yes, yes, yes.
        The 0-100 mentality is very entrenched indeed, even though we have to be an SBG school, the powerful won’t let go of those little numbers that give them control and keep the class system intact.
        But I’ve been thinking I can adapt your rubric and instead of an 85 or a 95, I could put a range. Then they would self assess on that range and it’s not my problem any more.
        I think this could be a simple solution.
        The reason I like your grading system is because:
        a-it is standards based
        b-simple
        c-fair to the slow processors that make an effort but, by golly even after a year of hearing “quiere” day in and day out, still can’t recall.

  11. I think I am starting to really get this.
    How does the following “sound”?
    I make proficiency at 95%. Each marking period they will all get a 95.
    If the evidence in the 0% category shows a student really isn’t understanding much, I lower the proficiency level to be achieved for h/h (after a meeting or something).
    The remaining 5% can be a speaking assessment (story retell, talk from a story strip, etc.) at an end of the year assessment. The super achievers would have to be practicing all year in their interaction with me.

    • Sure, although you wrote “If the evidence in the 0% category shows a student really isn’t understanding much…” I would say that if a student isn’t understanding much, look into what you’re doing in class, because that means they aren’t receiving CI. If a student gives themselves an 85, and the evidence supports that, don’t just change it to a 95. The meetings are for when a student self-assess way above or way below where they should be.

      I’m not sure what that 5% performance task at the end of the year will do for you and your students. That 5% is already built into the rubrics (i.e. Exceeds Goal = 100%) for the “super achievers” as you put it. But really, do whatever you want to, or need to. This grading system and proficiency rubrics are designed to focus on input, and eliminate “grading.”

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