Assessment & Grading is, by far, the most frequent topic I’m asked about, and this year’s National TPRS Conference features 10 of those workshops on Thursday and Friday! Based on the descriptions, there’s a mix of proficiency people, skill people, tech-tool people, speaking people, rubric people, and more! I’ll be presenting one of those workshops, and have noticed that my thinking is a little different. I do recommend getting to as many of the 10 as you can, so in case you miss out on mine, here’s a brief look at what I’m about…
I have a very simple approach to assessment because the answer is always RLMTL (i.e. Reading and Listening to More Target Language). That is, there is NO assessment I could give that WOULD NOT result in me providing more input. Therefore, my assessments are input-based, and very brief. In fact, what many consider assessments—for me—are actually just simple quizzes used to report scores (see below).
I prefer to assess students authentically.
An authentic assessment is recognizing lack of comprehension, and then making the language more comprehensible. Marzano calls what I do “unobtrusive assessing” since acquiring doesn’t stop during assessing. The opposite, “obtrusive assessing,” occurs when a teacher schedules a test day, or takes students out in the hall one-by-one to assess speaking while the rest of the class does who-knows-what, etc. Therefore, I assess authentically while the focus is on genuine communication (i.e. interpretation, negotiation, and expression of meaning), rather than assessing inauthentically on a more contrived way based on performance, or in a more academic-knowledge-based-subject-matter way that we know doesn’t lead to acquisition, and excludes too many.
I also have a very simple approach to grading, because grading has nothing to do with acquisition. I’ve found that most DAPS (i.e. Department Leaders, Admin, Parents, and Students) usually expect to see scores—not necessarily grades—so I report them in a 0% weighted grading category that doesn’t average into a student’s overall course grade. This leads to low anxiety over the low-stakes quizzes, and avoids those extrinsic number and letter rewards that have plagued education for quite some time.
If teachers are still forced to give grades for something that isn’t subject matter to be learned anyway (i.e. language is too complex and abstract), students should get As in an inclusive language classroom based on acquisition. Therefore, I assign a single course grade according to the rubric that best matches a student’s acquisition rate, while all those reported scores have no direct impact. Reported scores could also be used to show trends as evidence of understanding, or lack thereof. They are especially useful during meetings with DAPS, who basically just want to know “how is __ doing?”
My grading system also allows for all those bad days students have, or when X number of students miss that Y quiz on day Z, etc. For me, there’s no need to reschedule quizzes because those numbers are just reported scores, and don’t actually represent the authentic assessing done (see above) on a daily basis. If I give 15 quizzes, but a student was in school for only 10 of those, that’s still enough evidence to show DAPS progress in that gradebook, so no “make ups” are necessary. I haven’t stayed after to work with a “struggling student,” or taken home work to mark/grade for years. I have a life.
See Grading & Reporting Schemes for how assessing, grading, quizzing, and reporting all come together in my teaching.
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