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3 Perspectives on an AFL example - Administrator, Parent, Student

This was originally posted on Assessment FOR Learning. If you are interested in the topic, you might want to join that site.

I’d like to share a recent AFL experience from three different perspectives – that of a school administrator, that of a parent, and that of a student.

My daughter is a freshman taking Algebra 2. While she typically does very well in math, she has a tendency to start slowly. She is often somewhat overwhelmed by new concepts. It takes her a little bit to gain confidence in a new math class.

Kaitlin received a C on her first Algebra 2 quiz of the school year and after a week or so of school, had a C for the class. (The teacher assigns many “practice” assignments but assigns very small point values to these assignments. Essentially quiz and test grades determine the grade for the marking period.) Kaitlin earned a B on her second Algebra 2 quiz. This raised her grade to a B for the class.

Kaitlin is a typically a straight A student. While we as a family try to pay more attention to learning that we do grades, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would take for Kaitlin to raise her grade to an A. After she received her mid-term which showed the 2nd quiz grade and the B average, I asked her what her plan was to get an A. I loved what I heard next.

Kaitlin replied that she wasn’t worried about her grade. Her teacher had explained to her that there would soon be a test. The test would be divided into sections with each section representing a previous quiz. If Kaitlin did better on a particular section than she had done on the corresponding quiz, then the grade on the test section would replace the grade from the quiz.

Here is how I viewed this situation as an administrator:

I was really proud of Kaitlin’s teacher and of the fact that members of our staff are being so creative in the way that they assess and grade. Her teacher was using a classic style of assessing – small practice assignments,(homework and classwork), quizzes, and then a test. This is a tried and true method of teaching math. The feedback from the assessments help Kaitlin guide her studying and will no doubt help her to learn the content by test time. What is really exciting to me as an administrator is the way the teacher is grading in a non-traditional manner to ensure that the ultimate grade truly represents learning. Typically a teacher would average together all the assignments. Or perhaps the quizzes together would count a certain percentage of the overall grade with the tests counting another percentage and the practice assignments combined for the remainder. The problem with this traditional grading is that it doesn’t reflect learning progress. For example, if Kaitlin manages to get a 100% on the test that covers the 2 quizzes she has already taken, then how valid will those quiz grades be? The 100% will be a better indicator of her learning. Her teacher is doing an excellent job of combining AFL strategies with mastery grading techniques. As an administrator, I am proud to be able to tell parents and students that our teachers are making every effort to encourage learning and to grade accurately.

Here is how I viewed this situation as a parent:

As a parent, I was relieved to find out that my daughter’s teacher was using the grading techniques described above. It’s easy to put too much emphasis on grades; however, as a parent I want my daughter to do the best she can, to want to work hard, and to earn the grades that will open up doors of opportunity. As a parent, I also desire for my children to have great teachers who inspire, motivate, and push while being fair and student-centered. It’s not that I want someone to give Kaitlin an A. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I want a teacher who will challenge her with rigor and get her to learn content that she might think above her own head. But once Kaitlin meets that level of rigor and learns that content, I want her to have a grade that reflects that accomplishment. I know that while learning the content might be the most important thing, the grade on the transcript will open and close doors down the road. So when I realized that my daughter’s teacher was assessing and grading in a manner that would encourage my daughter to keep working hard to get the grade she wanted, I was relieved and excited.

Here is how I watched my daughter view this situation as a student:

Kaitlin wasn’t really worried about the grade in the class. It’s not that she didn’t care about the grade – she just wasn’t worried. The reason she wasn’t worried was that she could tell that her teacher was getting her to learn. She wasn't stressed over the grades she had earned on the quizzes because she understood that they were learning opportunities. She understood that they were points along the journey rather than the destination. She felt challenged yet encouraged by the way her teacher was assessing and grading her. To Kaitlin, her teacher’s methods seemed fair, and they inspired her to want to keep working and to learn.

Thanks, Mrs. Denton.

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