Summer Time… Rest and Reflect

Many educators finishing their term are probably hugely relieved to be entering summer. As has been described in the past this last academic year 2021-22 challenged schools, teachers, educational support staff in ways that were never expected- everyone had to become health care monitors, mental health supporters, safety/security personnel, assessors, remedial instructors, … Hats off to all that have endured this year.

After you decompress, relax and re-energize I invite you to think about your teaching practice a little differently I highly recommend reading this one article called: I no longer grade my students’ work – and I wish I had stopped sooner by Elisabeth Gruner. It is absolutely enlightening and could really help to return sanity to one’s teaching practice.

For a long time I have played with the concepts of Mastery Based Grading and have included different resources on my website: Teaching Hacks 4 All. When you consider different schooling systems- the US teachers are mostly in charge of their own grading of student work, designing final exams and ultimately assigning learners their final grades. These final grades are what is averaged to eventually give a student a GPA that they then use on their college/university applications. In the UK teachers do the formative assessment but the final marks come from externally marked assessments. In fact a friend of mine signed up to mark a whole collection of English exams and she had to test into this opportunity to insure that her marking would be in line with what is expected. Now she is marking over 1000 papers and the results from these papers is what will give students their individual scores and be used for their university applications.

In both situations what is missing is the student role besides taking the assessment. What is great about Elisabeth Gruner’s system for non-marking is that students are empowered to review their feedback and track their own progress and development. They put together a portfolio of their work from the year and write about what they have achieved and what they believe it is worth aligned to a common rubric. The teacher besides giving the formative feedback will read and review the portfolios and either agree with the student or disagree and explain why.

From my own experience at UC Santa Cruz where they used to give narratives for your final transcript one of the most difficult classes was where I was assigned to write my own narrative. In this review I had to explain what I had learned and as a result of the course what impact it made on my life as a scholar. The tutor would review the narrative and either accept it or return it with more feedback. This exercise forced me to think critically about the course and what ultimately I had learned. The outcome is a bit different than having taking a multiple choice exam and getting a final grade summed up in a percentage.

My summer question to you as you ponder next year’s teaching is how can you know you are making an impact and what are ways to deepen student learning from the feedback you provide. Might you consider trying Elisabeth Gruner’s portfolio system for marking.

Published by marasimmons

A passionate educator turned world traveler embarking on a nomadic lifestyle with my family. Learning to appreciate a life where we have the privilege of choosing our destiny and embracing it.

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