Thursday, November 20, 2014

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due: Grading Fairly

***Disclaimer: The thoughts shared in this post are my opinion. I would love  love to hear other peoples thoughts on best grading practices.
My 6yr old daughter has spelling tests every week at school, and I hate it. I feel like spelling tests are pointless. Being able to write a word one week doesn’t mean anything to me – especially if you don’t understand what the word means or how to use it. So far, Dixie has done well on her tests. However, every week I anxiously wait for her to bring the graded test home so I can see the grade and breath a sigh of relief. I get anxious because I know how much each word is worth – 10points. Missing 3 words on the test means getting 30% of the test wrong and earning a C grade (70%). Misspelling 4 words would give her a *gulp* 60%. The most annoying thing to me is that if she has 4 words like 
(from this week's list): those    woke    stone    joke
and spells them: 
She would have missed only 4 out of the 18 letters she needed to write down correctly. Adding in the other 6 words on her list, missing 4 letters means missing 9.3% of the test (there are 43 letters in all that make up the entire list of words). 

In my book missing 9% of a 100-point test, should not constitute a near failing grade.  Should it?

Having an elementary-school-age child has changed my philosophy on grading in the classroom. Throughout the years, I’ve gone through a plethora of ideas on best grading practices. Originally I was a teacher who if you solved a problem like 2x+6=4 and wrote x= 1, would make the problem wrong no matter what, and move on to the next one. The more I think about it though, the more I dislike the black and white “wrong is wrong” line of thinking when it refers to grading. Why do I think this? Because I feel, it is mathematically incorrect.

Here’s an example why:
When I teach students how to solve equations, I am teaching them steps they need to follow to correctly solve equations. I am not teaching them that 4/2 = 2 (teaching that was someone else's responsibility). I am teaching students that when they see parentheses around an expression that includes a variable they can remove the parentheses by distributing. I am teaching them that when they see a variable multiplied by a coefficient on one side of the equation and a constant on the other they should isolate the variable by performing the inverse operation (division) to both sides of the equation. In the situation above Jessie is showing me that he has a good grasp of the method I’ve taught. The mistake he made was big enough to change his answer, but it is not big enough for me to mark the question as entirely wrong.

I give credit for work done correctly. I do not believe in marking a problem completely wrong because a minor mistake led to a wrong answer. If I were to give a 10 question, 100-point test on solving multi-step equations (like the one shown above) each question would be worth 10 points. When I grade work my line of thinking goes something like this:
If this question were worth 10 points on the test, I would give this answer 6 or 7 out of 10 points. Jessie completed the majority of the steps correctly – and his grade should reflect that. I do not think it is fair to allow a minuscule mistake like this to cause a failing grade.
I don’t want to get into this too much (this post is already longer than I anticipated) but one of my major issues with standardized testing nowadays is that they do grade students in black in white, “wrong is wrong”, “right is right” form. Standardized testing ignores everything a student does right and puts all of the attention on minuscule mistakes made, which is unfair. Outside of school in the real world we recognize that mistakes are part of being human. Standardized testing ignores that part of human nature and expects absolute perfection.

 I for one would take pride in receiving an answer like the one given by Jessie above. It shows that Jessie is grasping the methods I’ve spent time teaching in class. Standardized testing ignores that anything was done correctly to solve a problem. Jessie would receive the same grade for his work as a student who chooses to go through the test highlighting random answers without doing any work at all – which is wrong.

 How do you grade students work? Do you give credit for work done, or mark everything wrong if the answer is wrong?

IDisclaimer:: I asked my daughter to write the words incorrectly for me so I could add a graphic to the post. She asked me to make sure I shared with you that she does know how to spell the words above correctly. :)

Picture for the title post is from:: Robert Couse-Baker
Clip Art is from: Lovin Lit 
Fonts are from: KG Fonts

1 comment:

  1. I believe in grading fairly, that is why it sometimes takes me forever to grade assessments. I understand that students make mathematical errors from time to time (we all do), but they still understand the process. I emphasis to my students that I care more about the process than the answer. If a question is worth ten points, the answer itself is work 1 out of the ten points. The rests of the points come from the process. If an answer is wrong, I go through the problem to see where the break down happened, was it mathematical or was it a process error? Sometimes they get the correct answer, but made a mistake in the process and I still take points off, because they didn't demonstrate an understanding of the process. It is more time consuming, but I think the students appreciate the feedback more.