Why 3P Grading?

UPDATE:  After attending #RSCON3 and talking to several ungraders… I have altered my grading plan.  Please see this post instead.  Thanks!

What a Grade Means to Me:

A grade, whether received for a math class or through a work assessment/review, is supposed to reflect how much you’ve learned since the last review/grade. A grade is, at its heart, a measure of progress and learning over a period of time in which you can compare your grade to others.

As a teacher, I have discovered what so many others are starting to discover that grading individual assignments does not work.

Educators are required to submit grades for our students.  However, I do not believe that a grade makes students more  interested, engaged, or a skilled learner, student, writer, reader, or thinker.  In fact, research indicates that grades work against learning and doing.

This semester, I am asking students to assess and their own learning, writing, reading, and thinking.  These will not be assessments created to generate a grade—like rubrics or scoring guides.  The best assessment involves observation, description, interpretation, and an insider’s awareness of what it is like to actually create the products or engage in the kind of thinking and writing we are assessing.

I will not grade individual assignments.  Not only do grades and point systems get in the way of learning, but they also just don’t make any sense, particularly in a course where the work and thinking we’ll do influences itself backwards and forwards.

I want all of the work my students complete throughout the semester integrated with them, the reader and each other.  If I’ve doled out grades, assignment by assignment, why would students want to go back and revise and edit their pieces.  Grades signify that the work is finished and writing, good writing, is never finished.  I want students to have a sense that our work together is  bigger and more important than any number or letter that I  could assign it.  And, indeed, it is.

I will ask students’ work be done on time, in good faith, a term used to describe work in which students have invested thought and time.  If students are thinking, working, and participating in good faith, then I will return your investment; I’ll give students response and feedback—assessment—to help them deepen their understandings and improve the quality of their work.

I needed to find/create/calculate the ideal grading system that would match my core beliefs on grading.  This is where the 3P system comes in.

My Interpretation of the 3P Grading System:  

Student are responsible for assessing themselves, just as I am responsible for assessing them.  Each of our assessments in Participation, Progress, and  Performance will count towards 50% of your final grade.

  • Participation (50%):  It’s worth half your grade.  That should tell you something.  Participation is how you conduct yourself in class.  Participation includes, but not limited to: Attendance (Don’t be late) in body and mind, Be Prepared, Assignments On-Time, Share in Class and Online, Be Respectful, Take Ownership, Be Accountable, Ask for Help.
  •  Progress (30%):  Progress takes into account new learning.  What didn’t you know at the beginning that you know now.  Simply “doing the work” will not cut it.  Two types of progress:  participation progress and academic/knowledge progress.
  • Performance (20%):  This part of grading is strictly in regards to the quality of the work produced. Most people are B/C people.  A vast majority of the population are B/C students and B/C workers.  And that is ok.

I then had to define what each grade “looks” like.  These are rough outlines.  The first day of class, we, as a class, will elaborate on these and agree… as a class.

  • A: Consistently Above and Beyond.  Completed more than asked/expected weekly. One of the very best.  Your work singles you out from the pack.  Perfect participation.
  • B: Occasionally performs above course requirements .  Exceeds expectations 75% of the time.
  • C: Just Enough. Does the bare minimum.  Nothing more, nothing less.
  • D: Didn’t Try.  Assignments do not match the requirements, assignments not complete, products have multiple grammar issues. No revision.
  • F:  Forget about it.  Assignments not passed in.  No effort, negative participation, missed classes.

I am, finally, at peace with grading my students.  I know that when my students see this system, they will experience some dissonance.  Students are so entrenched in the grade game this might come as challenging but I think once the students start working within the system, I really think it will open them and their writing up.

At least I hope so.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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Grading is my Achilles Heel

I admit it.

I hate grading and I’ve never had a system that I felt was what I needed it to be.

Since I started teaching in the Fall of 2007, grading is something I’ve struggled with, spent time mulling different incantations of grading systems, read how others graded, looked at how I was graded as a high school student, undergraduate and graduate student.  Looking back, I can honestly state that while I consider myself a voracious, diligent and dedicated student, more than 80% of my courses grading was a game.  Once I figured out how to get my “A,”  I did what was required to get the grade.

As a student, when I deciphered what the teacher wanted from me in terms of getting an “A,”  all exploratory, real learning was now secondary for me.  Unless my work and product lent itself towards the “A,” as a student I didn’t deviate from that path.  I was stuck in the cyclical and ingrained grade grubbing pattern that has been my life for 19 years in education.  An “A” is the only acceptable grade, the most desirable and therefore must be achieved.

The grade game become a glaring problem when I was designing my syllabus for my First-Year College Composition course.  I have been the Graduate Assistant for the National Writing Project in New Hampshire so I was well grounded in the principles of teaching writing and I knew, that in my heart, I value the process of writing more than the end product of writing. I didn’t want my students to be able to play the grade game with me.

I stuggled with determining not what I was going to teach, nor how I was going to teach but how I was going to transfer the student learning, partcipation and classroom activities into a letter grade that my students, parents and administration so dearly desire.  It is college after all.  If students aren’t there for the grades, why does college matter or school for that matter? (Perhaps that’s another post and please not the sarcasm).

My first syllabus (Fall 2009).  I did the best with what I thought I knew at the time.  (Damn that hindsight and its 20/20 vision.)  I thoughtfully structured my course off a points system(2400 points!) where the two drafts (vomit and revision) were worth more together than the final product.  I also used structured rubrics (4 pages long with detailed categories and examples).  Assessing those essays and projects were horrendous, not the product but assigning the “grade” was unbearable.  What separates an A from a B? Or a C from a D?  Is a D even, really worth it?

As I read the papers and circled the numbers on the rubric, I found myself “tweaking and fudging” the numbers?  I struggled all semester.  I silently stewed in my mind that what I had structured wasn’t working.  At the end of the semester, my grade-book was almost meaningless as grades were gently manipulated so that the students had the grade that they I and the students felt was more representative of where the students actually were.  Plus there were so many columns in my grade-book it was out of control.

I didn’t teach the Spring of 2010 (I had my second baby two weeks before the start of classes and even I am not that crazy.)

In the Fall of 2010 and Spring of 2011 I dropped rubrics altogether after reading Maja Wilson’s Rethinking Rubrics in Writing Assessments and Linda Christensen’s article My Dirty Little Secret-I Don’t Grade Writing.  I migrated towards percentage-based grading with a heavy emphasis on a final, reflective portfolio.  I still wasn’t happy.  I experienced the same difficulties with this system as I did the year prior.  I was left with my same core belief…

I value the process of writing more than the end product of writing.

…and I need an assessment system that will result in grades that accurately reflect this.

Two months ago while I was on the English Companion Ning I found a discussion on grading , or ungrading, of student essays.  This matched what I thought I was looking for at the time.  Before tonight’s #edchat on Twitter I was feeling okay about my grading system for the Fall of 2011:

  • Portfolio: 50%
  • In-Class Work: 15%
  • Reading Response Blog 10%
  • Process Pieces: 10%
  • Un-Conference Final: 15%

I wasn’t thrilled with the above grade breakout, but it was a little better.  I knew I was headed in the right direction, but I wasn’t near my final grading destination.

The last 15 minutes of #edchat tonight was simply invaluable.  While I participate in #engchat regularly, #edchat moves too fast for me still (I’ve only been on Twitter a few months and still getting acclimated).  However, tonight’s chat, I am fortunate to have stumbled upon.  The topic was on grading.  As I was skimming my twitter stream, @gmfunk mentioned the 3P System of Grading and a duo of blog posts on her use of it in her classroom.

A cursory glance at her posts geared me to find the source material of the 3P System.  Further researching, I found @CoachAllam blog and his post about why he doesn’t grade.  After an evening of tweeting with @CoachAllam, I am geared up that the 3P model of grading, might meld with my own personal philosophy of writing, teaching of writing and grading/assessing.

My goals are to thoughtfully read and review these blogs and the 3P article and meld it into my course structure for the fall.

I am hopeful that this Fall I may finally be happy with assessing and grading my students.

“You Sure Do Kill a Forest of Trees!”

With every course I teach, more and more students mention the use of paper in my courses. Yes, I teach college composition. Yes, we read, a lot and yes, we write even more. Reading and writing have always been associated with paper. The crispness of a brand new book. The crack of the spine as you open it the first time. The smell of the ink on the page.  My students; however, complain about the use (or misuse) of paper that my courses generate from course readings, vomit drafts, revision draft, clean drafts and more.  My students are generally green-conscious and they are not impressed with the reams of paper that are brandied about in my course.  I’ve heard my students and this year I am attempting to solve this issue.

This semester I am embracing technology as I never have before.  I am moving beyond Moodle, email and the like.  My two sections of composition will be paperless–paperless in terms of zero handouts from me (with the exception of the one-page course introduction with a QR code redirecting towards our course blog) and zero papers from students turned in.  Utilizing technology, students will complete a jot form from the course blog and upload all drafts of their papers.  Their papers will be automatically uploaded to my dropbox account.

Another challenge for me is to leave my widescreen laptop at home and use my iPad for my on-campus activities.  The iPad will allow me to utilze such great apps as Goodreader and iAnnotate to move the documents onto my iPad, provide the detailed and open-ended conversational feedback that I like to give to my students.  iAnnotate then allows me to e-mail the fully annotated file back to the student.  All on the iPad.

I am hopeful that this workflow flows (for lack of a better word).  I spent weeks (yes, weeks) reading, Googling, asking my small, yet growing, PLN on Twitter their experiences.  I bought apps for my iPad to try out and then regret spending the $2-$5 for an app that failed to live up to my expectations (yes, I admit they might have been abnormally high).  After a solid month, I developed a work flow, that with trial and error on my end, I believe will work.

I am anxious, unsure and wondering how this will work in the actual classroom (not just in my mind) and how the students will work with this concept and if they will embrace it.

It will be a long two months until I introduce this to my students this year.  But, I am hopeful.