2022-23 Grading: Process & Growth

I began writing this post even before publishing last spring’s grading update, knowing full well that the year’s experience would result in some tweaks. At the time, I wrote how my system was “90% of the way towards equitable, time-saving grading that shifts focus to learning.” I’d say my latest updates have brought me up to a solid 97%. For example, the variety of standards and evidence I was collecting was good, but I found that I didn’t need separate standards introduced at different times. Thus, we’re back to something more straightforward: Process & Growth, every quarter, completely self-assessed & graded by students, plus the following details:

I’m trying out somewhat of an ungraded approach as part of a pilot research study. Instead of scores for individual assignments, I’ll mark them as “collected” (green check) and update Process and Growth standards accordingly until students self-assess & grade at the end of the term. This is not unlike my previous workflow, updating the standard when I get evidence of meeting it, or not (so there are no surprises come self-grade time), but the shift in focus away from numbers and grades at the individual assignment level is in line with the literature I’ve reviewed so far on grading practices. That’s an important shift in the ungrading process. So, this is what one of last year’s gradebooks would’ve looked like with just check marks:

As you can see, this gradebook still shows students who are missing work (orange squares), who were absent (green squares), and who are exempt from the work (purple diagonal). Unlike most ungrading approaches, though, the overall standards grades in the first two columns are seen all throughout the grading term. In a true ungraded approach, the grade isn’t entered until the end of the grading term, usually after a conference with the teacher. That places full focus on learning, not numbers. However, my compromise is to have an updated grade throughout the term to answer all the “how are they doing?” questions coming from parents, admin, and in-school supports without completely changing culture and expectations otherwise required by a true ungraded approach. My compromise still takes focus off of grades and scores for everything else, though, so I’m hopeful. Also, it’s a much cleaner look than what I had before. Compare the gradebook above with the busier one from that year:

As for the rubrics, to support the ungraded approach, I’ll be referring to these rubrics without grades throughout the term:

Then, when it comes time to self-grade at the first progress report, then each quarter’s end afterwards, I’ll show them the one with grades:

Student-driven Ownership
I found that I could be even more hands-off by having students gather their own evidence of learning. Instead of using a Google Form to collect *specific* assignments, students will keep a running portfolio (Google Classroom assignment with no due date they keep uploading evidence to). The generic Google Form—assigned on a particular date—will ask:

  • What did you add to your portfolio today?
  • How does it show your Process (of Looking & Listening, and Responding/Showing/Asking)?

I can create an assignment in the gradebook called “Process Learning Evidence #1,” and mark it as collected (or missing) accordingly. Since the portfolio is student choice, this is where variety comes in. For example, whereas last year’s Proficiency standard was based on exit tickets, we don’t need that as its own standard. I could be giving weekly “comprehension checks,” just not scoring them at all (re: no points). Therefore, a student could choose to add their results into their portfolio. Or not, and that’s fine. Naturally, students will benefit from examples. Here’s a list of possible evidence to add to the Google Classroom Assignment:

  • drawings
  • notebook pics (including writing down something specific from class that shows understanding)
  • comprehension checks
  • fluency writes
  • text annotations

The most laborious task for me last year was creating a Google Form that had students compare their experience reading two texts: one older, one newer. It dawned on me that I actually want to hear from students on this one, and it was another opportunity to have them gather their own evidence of learning. Since all of the texts we read aside from novellas are digital, in a single “Class Library” Google Doc, students could use that resource to show individual growth in a more personalized way. Instead of me deciding upon an anchor text I’d expect all students to understand, each student chooses their own, compares their reading experience, and explains their growth. The prompts for the Growth Google Form are:

  • Copy parts (your choice) of 2 older and 2 newer texts from the bibliothēca.
  • Explain what you understand and how that shows growth.

Btw, here are the Growth rubrics, one without grades to be used during the quarter, then the one with grades for the quarter’s end, just like Process:

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