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Why is Allen Iverson on Assessment FOR Learning?

(This post was originally posted on Assessment FOR Learning. While it does not directly relate to freshmen, it does relate to the art of teaching and assessing.)

Members of this network may have noticed a video that seems out of place on an educational social network. The video is of a post-game interview with NBA player Allen Iverson. Why in the world is that on here?

Salem High School teachers on this Ning know the answer to that. When our school first started taking a serious look at AFL, we realized right away that how you chose to grade assessments could negate the learning that they generated. In other words, if you use AFL strategies well they will lead to an increase in learning. Students and teachers will be using feedback to guide learning and instruction. However, if we want the student's grade to reflect the learning that occurred, we must be very careful and deliberate about how we grade (or don't grade) the assessments we give. Allen Iverson - believe it or not - has something to say about that. Watch the video and then I'll explain.

(If the video on this post didn't load right away, try reloading the page.)

It's been awhile since I've seen that video. Could someone refresh my memory about what he was "talkin' 'bout"? Oh, that's right - PRACTICE!

First of all, my posting this video is not in ANY WAY making a point about the need to practice when you're on a team. I'm not AT ALL an Iverson fan. It's just posted because it gives us an image to which we can relate - We're Talkin' 'Bout Practice!

How does this relate to grading? Think about your grades and your assessments. How many of them are "practice"? In other words, how many of your assignments are intended to help students practice so that they can learn? I bet you that most of them are. Now let's think about grading. How many points to you assign to these assignments? What would happen to a student who mastered the content, as evidenced by your final graded assessment, but did poorly on the practice assignments?

Let's get more direct: How many students are failing your class because they either didn't do or did poorly on your practice assessments? Do you have students who can pass your tests - or whatever your final graded assessment is - but fail your class? Why is this? It's because their practice assignments - the ones that were supposed to help them learn - are counting against them. Never mind that they mastered the material - or at least learned it to a level above failing. Never mind that you taught them even though they didn't do all your assignments. Their practice is causing them to fail.

By the way - I'm not saying here that practice isn't important. I think students should practice everyday in class and every night at home. But should practice be graded in a way that allows a kid who learned the content to fail the class or receive a grade that does not represent learning?

The Winter Olympics just ended. Some gold medals were won by less than 1/10 of second. What if the practice runs were then averaged in causing the gold medal winner to get a silver? That would be ridiculous. Our goal is to get kids to be able to learn and perform. If they do this then it's because of the job we did. Why would we then take a bunch of practice assessments and average them in with the assessments that really counted?

If we use AFL to increase learning but then grade poorly, we can end up negating the achievement. Take a look at your grade book. Examine why some students are failing. Remember - WE'RE TALKIN' 'BOUT PRACTICE!

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Comment by Scott Habeeb on March 2, 2010 at 10:01am
Good points, Ron. What happens, though, too often in the K-12 environment is that homework, in particular, causes students' grades to be lower. I love homework because it's practice. I think it should be assigned regularly. But doing it is typically not the best way to assess knowledge. So when grades on homework - which are usually for completion - bring a grade down OR ARTIFICIALLY INFLATE a grade there's a problem. True practice should be true practice.
Comment by Dr. Ronald G. Shapiro on March 2, 2010 at 9:30am
Hi Scott,
I agree with your posting. Some students start poorly and learn during the semester reflected by outstanding performance on the final exam. Other students do well throughout the semester and then perform at a level much lower than expected during the final exam. In the case of the second student substantial evidence would support the hypothesis that the student did learn the material but for some reason (family event, feeling sick....) did not do well in that 3 hour exam period. In the case of the sports analogy, the second student would have simply been graded poorly because the student did not perform well in the "big game" or the "final exam." Here is where I think educational grading needs to differ from the sports arena or for that matter performance in many professions. In sports it is all in the "big game." Nothing else matters. In the educational system if final exam performance is not good I do believe that should not have an undue influence on student's grades especially at the middle school, high school or college levels. Thus, when I've had the freedom to do so, I've implemented a grading scheme that looks for evidence of learning. If a student did very well on most weekly quizzes but poorly on the final exam I would weigh the quizzes more heavily. On the other hand, if a student performed much better on the final exam, but not well on early quizzes I weighed the final exam more heavily. Doing this did make it more difficult to negotiate my grading policy at the beginning of the semester, but I believe the end product was grading which reflected what a student actually learned. Ron

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