Tag: Reflection

The Road Less Traveled 6 Weeks into #Gradeless

The Road Less Traveled 6 Weeks into #Gradeless

This post is the first in an ongoing series reflecting on the journey my students, their families and I are taking this year as we go gradeless in our science classroom in an effort to shift our focus to learning and understanding. 

After a successful trial run last spring eliminating grades in lieu of feedback and reflection with my eighth grade science students (The Road to Gradeless), I decided to completely eliminate grades for all of 155 of my sixth and seventh grade students this year.  This summer, with much guidance from my #gradeless plc, I put my vision down on paper (Learning and Grades Parent Letter), shared it with my administrators and was prepared to share with my students and their families.  I had already decided that I would not immediately introduce my grading philosophy to my students.  Instead, I chose to begin the year with a focus on learning, risk taking, problem solving and collaboration.  

Three weeks ago, after I felt that we had begun to create and develop a collaborative, safe, learning community, I explained to my students and their families that they would only be receiving learning feedback from me.  All of the feedback I have received from parents up to this point has been positive.  While curious about this approach and what it will actually look like day to day in the classroom, they appreciate the emphasis on learning.  The response of my students to our feedback driven community has been relatively neutral.  While I believe most of them heard me say we are going gradeless, they are only now just beginning to make sense of what this actually means for their learning.  

Providing Feedback

I decided to primarily use single-point rubrics to provide students with feedback on their learning.  I was introduced to the single-point rubric in a blog post by Cult of Pedagogy founder Jennifer Gonzales, Meet the #SinglePointRubric.  I like the simple structure of these rubrics where the focus is on the learning criteria.  

I am using Schoology to document feedback.  If a student learner has met the criteria, they receive a “Proficient”.  If they have not met the criteria, they receive a “Not Proficient Yet”.  I include concerns, questions and evidence of advanced understandings in the comment column of the Schoology “gradebook”.  I place the emphasis on the “Yet” in not proficient yet, continuing to acknowledge and remind my student learners that learning is messy and that it is ok, and often necessary, to take multiple tries to develop and communicate an understanding.  The end goal and the emphasis is always understanding.  

Self-Reflection

In addition to providing feedback on each learning activity using single point rubrics, student learners are also keeping a digital portfolio using Seesaw.  I love the simple, but professional, feel of this digital portfolio tool.  I also like that it is easy for student learners to share their portfolios with their parents and other family members.  School-family relationships have the potential to create powerful learning opportunities.  Tools like Seesaw and Schoology help create these powerful relationships.  

At the conclusion of every major learning objective, students select one piece of their work they believe exemplifies their understandings of the learning objective.  In addition to posting their work sample, they are also writing or recording a brief reflection piece summarizing their reasons for choosing the piece of work and why it demonstrates their learnings.  

Traditional vs Innovative Grading Systems

Our school is on a quarter system.  I will still need to enter a traditional letter grade for each quarter.  I have decided that the students will determine this “grade”.  At the end of each quarter, I will act as a facilitator as they evaluate their learning.  My hope is that their Schoology and Seesaw portfolios will guide them in this reflection, providing gentle reminders of their deep and comprehensive learning over the previous 9 weeks.  

Looking Forward

I’m not sure where the next 8 months will lead us, but I am excited to find out.  I will be reflecting on the many components that must all intertwine together as we travel down this road less traveled.  Please share the journey with us.  Thoughts, comments and ideas are, as always, much appreciated!