Grading: A Zero-Autonomy Quick Fix

After reviewing my NTPRS 2018 presentation with someone earlier today, I stumbled upon a way to demystify the concept while also providing an option for immediate implementation without ANY changes to those pesky school-mandated, unchangeable grading categories (if you’re in that unlucky situation). In each grading category:

  1. Create assignments that do NOT count towards the final grade (usually a check box)
  2. Create ONLY ONE assignment that DOES count towards the final grade
  3. Use a—ANY—holistic rubric to arrive at that grading category grade

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Input Expectations: The Updated ONE Rubric

I’ve had great success reporting scores of any homework, assignments, and quizzes in a 0% grading category portfolio, and then using those scores as evidence to double check and confirm each student’s self-assessed course grade based on Proficiency Rubrics. However, I’m constantly open to streamlining any teaching practice, so I’ve just updated my rubrics, distilling them into a single one. Students still self-assess their own estimated ACTFL Proficiency Level, but that level is independent from the grade they also self-assess. So, what’s the grade based on? Instead of proficiency, it’s based on course expectations of receiving input! After all, input causes proficiency, so why not go right to the source?

Move over Proficiency-Based Grading (PBG)! Hello…Expectations…Based…Grading (EBG)? It’s not as wacky as it sounds, trust me. In fact, it’s probably the least-restrictive grading practice next to Pass/Fail, yet still holds students accountable and provides all the flexibility I’ve enjoyed thus far. Here’s the rubric:

Capture

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Averaging & Delayed Assessments

My interest in assessment & grading began shortly after the first few months of teaching right out of grad school. I noticed that some students did well with the content from the first few textbook chapters, but others didn’t do so well at all. Thus, beginning the year with low self-efficacy that was hard to turn around. By November, I realized that students were comfortable with the vocabulary and grammar from the first few chapters of the textbook. Then hit me; if I had just delayed those first assessments by a month or so, ALL STUDENTS would have aced them! What is more, the students who actually improved had that lower 1st quarter grade (e.g. C) averaged with the new, higher grade (e.g. A), producing a skewed reflection of their ability (e.g. B). None of this made sense; I was playing gods & goddesses with my students’ GPA.

I began researching how to arrive at a course grade that actually reflected ability—not just the averaging I was familiar with and somehow never questioned (or was even taught about in grad school). I spent months reading up on grading from experts like Marzano, O’Connor, and even some stuff from Alfie Kohn. I moved towards a system that showed where students were at the very moment of the grading term’s end without penalizing them for understanding the content slowly at first, or even having those bad days that students inevitably have. This was how I came to use Proficiency-Based Grading (PBG), and subsequently the kind of no-prep quizzes that haven’t added anything to my planning time in years.

If you’re ready for that, hooray! If not, at least consider 1) NOT averaging grades, as well as 2) delaying your assessments until students have already shown you that they understand the content!

NTPRS 2017 Resources

Here are links to my Thursday and Friday NTPRS presentations, and related posts for a) those who attended and are interested in reading more, b) those who slept in past 8am (I am slightly envious of that), but wanted to attend, or c) those who weren’t at the conference at all, but find the topics interesting just the same.

Presentations:
NTPRS 2017 – No Prep Grading & Assessment (PPT)
NTPRS 2017 – Same Skills Different Game (PPT)

Related Blog Posts:
No Prep Grading & Assessment

Same Skills Different Game

NTPRS 2017: 10 Workshops On Assessment & Grading!

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…

RLMTL
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.

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Assessment & Grading: Game Changers

When teachers complain about their certain practices that create more work for themselves and take time away from students acquiring the target language, my response is usually “well then, don’t use them.” Follow the logic below to arrive at why you need to wrap your head around changing Assessment & Grading practices so that you can use your prep/planning time, and personal life,  for more useful and enjoyable endeavors…

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Tea with BVP Episode 43: Mind Grenades

Spring semester Tea with BVP starts up again this week, but before the winter break, Bill VanPatten dropped what that weird keynote speaker at ACTFL 2016 would call “mind grenades,” and he dropped quite a few. If there’s one episode to listen to, it’s Episode 43. Among others, here’s one gem that sticks out, and sets up this week’s episode:

“In fact, nothing in a textbook is psychologically real” (click here for a psychedelic treatment of the audio)

Others followed:

  1. “The problem we have is textbook materials…if you look at them closely they’re probably not input-oriented, or meaning-based…here at MSU, for example, all of our homework is input-based (e.g. sentence-level).”
  2. “I think we need to do away with seat time requirements, and we need to do away with grades.”
  3. “As a profession, we need to start making the argument that language is not like other subject matter. We gotta stop treating it like that.”
  4. “One of the questions [aspiring language teachers] asked was ‘how can we study so we can do better on our state proficiency exam?…what tenses should we be studying so I can pass this?’ and I said ‘well you CAN’T study for a proficiency test’…you’re a language teacher, what have you been learning about language and language acquisition that you don’t know the answer to that question yourself?!”
  5. “Output is a byproduct of acquisition, it’s not really necessary for acquisition…there are some people who claim it is, but there’s absolutely no research that shows that it is!”
  6. “There was work that came out in the 70’s showing that actually your knowledge of grammar emerges from interactions with people…it’s about participating in conversations that you gain accuracy in knowledge about a language.”
  7. “Any of us can open a textbook, open a page, and memorize  a page and it winds up in our conscious knowledge, but what actually is in your head is something quite different…the fact that you can conjugate a verb doesn’t mean that’s what you access later on.”
  8. “That’s the problem we have in SLA—there are facts, but people just don’t want to believe them.”
  9. “Talking doesn’t make you learn anything…you do not have to talk in order to learn language, language will get in your head by just listening and reading and watching and seeing.”
  10. “Getting input into your classroom is not my idea of SLA—that’s just SLA. input is necessary, so the consequences is that we need constant exposure to input for our student.”
  11. “The people who were videotaped interacting improved, but then another group that just watched the videotape (and weren’t students themselves) improved just by watching the interaction…and this wasn’t grammar class, just interaction…the group was listening in on other people’s conversations and acquiring some language at the same time.”
  12. “If your classroom is interesting, I could be talking to Angelika but if Walter is listening (because we’re doing something interesting), he’s gonna acquire language.”
  13. “Sometimes slipping an English word is the fastest way to get that meaning across…if your focus is on communication and you spend all this time going around and around and around and people still don’t know what they hell you’re talking about, you could’ve had 10 more min. of Comprehensible Input and interaction because all you needed was one word.”