Friday, May 9, 2014

A Chance to Try Again

This semester I asked students in my classes to give presentations on their papers. I've been very generous in grading these presentations. And I realized that part of the reason I was being so generous was because I was only giving them a chance to present once. In the past, when I've had students present I give them a chance to do it twice and I am much more critical in my grading. This made me think that I operate under the following grading policy: Only grade a particular assignment harshly if students had a chance to try that kind of assignment before. So, for example, if you are going to grade papers harshly, then you should have more than one paper due a term (or a draft in which you give them comments) so students can learn from the mistakes they make the first time around. Thoughts? 

[Edited: The original post didn't quite capture what I meant. Thanks to Sarah Paul for pointing this out.]

1 comment:

  1. It kind of depends what you are grading them on. If you are grading (at least in part) their presentation skills then it seems like they ought to get a chance to actually learn to do it before their performance partly determines their final grade. I don't ever do anything particularly well the first time I try it. And really, isn't it kind of unfair to expect them to do anything up to standard the very first time? My rule of thumb is three times at least before any new skill gets a "final" grade.

    The problem is how to separate formative and summative assessment: how do you get them to do it (it has to "count") let them know the quality of what they did, and at the same time not have it muddy up the meaning of a final grade?

    I have taken to giving assignments where "later higher grades erase earlier lower grades," and assigning multiple iterations of an assignment with the caveat that once they've earned an A they don't have to do any more of that assignment. And I always tell them what I'm looking for as clearly and explicitly as I can. I find I get much better performances if I let them know exactly what I am hoping for. Also, I grade/comment publicly. So they can learn from each other's mistakes. This ramps up the learning curve considerably.

    Hope that helps!


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