“Authentic” Assessment: What should the roles of grades be?

Something that I have been consistently struggling with over my time at University and in my pre-service teaching experiences is assessment. Assessment ( both formative and summative) are suppose to track students growth and progress over given periods of time. I do agree that it is absolutely  essential to track students growth, as in my opinion helping students better themselves and challenge them selfs is a key role for an educator, but I have always wondered about how education often assess students.

I find that there tends to be pressure on educators ( as we are in a sense the “trainers” of the next generation) to be accountable of students learning ( this should be so as our job is to help students learn , grow and challenge themselves) . This accountability often lies on students number or letter grades. Students growth and improvement is often based on a series of paper assessments. These assessments are often marked by rubrics, or other tools that are designed to “judge” students work. I  wonder how effective these tools are in effectively monitoring students growth and learning and I have always wondered if students potentials are sometimes lost in knowing that they are going to be graded. I  was always a conscientious kid and would figure out exactly what I needed to do to get a good mark. Although, like many other students, I exceeded in getting good marks, which made me wonder if I didn’t take as many challenges or risks in my learning in fear of not receiving a high percentage on an assignment. On the flip side, students that might struggle with a certain area might be withdrawn from learning opportunities in fear of receiving another “low grade”. I have worked with lots of students that have began to give up on school because they feel that they are going to receive a low mark.

After having a conversation with my peers on assessments, we all agreed that assessing students is an absolute expectation put on teachers, and that this expectation to provide marks is not necessarily going to change, but that as an educator it is important to find ways to holistically asses your students.

I don’t have a definite answer of how to expectations on teachers to keep a “paper trail of marks” and how to make assessments and learning opportunities the MOST meaningful for the members of the class. I do think that providing differentiated instructions, choosing activities that matter to the students worlds and facilitating class and individual discussions on a given project or assignment all help to create a meaningful learning environment.

What are your thoughts on assessment? what should the role of grades be?

I am very interested to know everyones opinions and experiences!

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3 thoughts on ““Authentic” Assessment: What should the roles of grades be?

  1. In internship, there was a lot of pressure to continually assess students in almost every lesson I taught – or so it seemed! In teaching language arts, my cooperating teacher really was big on assessment and I did not realize the different categories that are part of a LA mark. I think sometimes, we get caught up in marking everything students do and that we can miss seeing their real growth and improvement – the small and big accomplishments. I realize that you need marks for report cards, but when you know the time frame you have to assess, and the units and lessons you are teaching, I would hope you aren’t scrambling for marks to put on the card. And that it reflects the semester or time period of learning. I think it is very important that the letter grade or percentage students receive is accompanied with meaningful feedback as that can support areas where students are doing well and where they need improvements.

  2. I think that some responsibility must be placed on the teacher for the marks their students receive. After all, teaching is our job, and if our students are receiving poor marks it is possible that we should be doing something differently. However, it is a responsibility that is shared by the student. Teaching is not a one-way road. Teachers teach, and students learn. If some students choose not to learn, there isn’t always something we can do about it. As the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. On the other hand, you could perhaps get the horse to tell you WHY it won’t drink. I think that communication and mutual feedback is just as important as giving grades. We need to know what works best for them, and they need to know how successful they are with their learning, and why or why not.

    Grades are important, but they shouldn’t be the only important things in education. Students need support from their teachers just as much as they need to be assessed for progress.

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