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It is important to have a grading system because there must be a way to assess the performance of the students. It is a problematic issue because the students do not really understand how it works. On the other hand the teachers are pressured to provide a way to accurately assess learning outcomes.
In addition teachers are faced with the daunting task of giving students a failing grade if they deserve it. At the same time teachers are discouraged to give failing grades because it is a reflection that nothing was done to help the students achieve better results. Thus, it is mutually beneficial for students and teachers to use an improved grading system. It is important to alter the current system in place in order to use one that is more efficient and conducive to learning.
An efficient grading system is one that effectively communicates to students, colleagues and institutions the extent of the learning outcome. At the same time it must be a transparent system. Students must have a fair understanding of how it works. Students must have a clear idea of the grade that they will receive.
In the current system, students feel that they are graded using subjective methods. In this way students have a clear guide as to how to improve their performance. In the absence of an effective and efficient grading system, students are not encouraged to strive harder.
Before going any further it is important to point out that the new grading system must help evaluate student’s mastery of the course material. In other words it is not a grading system developed to test students from a different school. It is not a system developed to evaluate learning outcomes of a grade school student. The said grading system must be focused on the materials covered in this semester.
The new grading system must not only assess the learning outcome but it must also encourage the student to strive harder. This is made possible through an effective way to communicate strengths and weaknesses. Students must be given an effective feedback mechanism that is built into the said grading system.
Thus, it is imperative that teachers should not only give grades that can be interpreted in different ways. There must be a system in place that enables the teachers to pinpoint problematic areas and communicate this information to the student.
An ideal grading system must encourage active learning that would lead to personal growth. In other words an effective and efficient grading system must be seen as an incentive tool. It is a system that drives students to move forward. It is a tool that points them ahead to a clear goal.
It is a system that provides specific rewards for specific actions. Based on this particular criterion alone there is a great need to revamp the way teachers view their role within a particular grading system. A teacher must not only assess the performance of his students because he must also act as a coach to his students.
It is easy to develop a grading system that addresses the needs outlined above, but there is one more challenge that has to be overcome before teachers are able to upgrade the current grading system, in order to turn it into something that is effective and efficient. The new grading system must demonstrate that it can realistically conform and adhere to the limitations imposed on the teachers.
Change the Core
In the current grading system, the teacher provides a wealth of information regarding a particular topic. The information are gathered from different sources and presented using different methods. For example information can come from a biography of a particular famous individual.
The teacher aims to teach the students a particular character trait that is the reason why the person is successful. In other occasions the teacher uses a video of a lecture. In the said video an expert talks about a particular subject matter. Another way to deliver content is to instruct students to read a particular essay in order to learn more about a particular topic.
After a few days of studying, the teacher creates a simple test to determine the information retained by the students. A straightforward test regarding the information contained in books, videos, and lectures are contained in the said exam. Naturally, the students that fail to answer a minimum amount of questions failed the test. The students who were able to answer a majority of the question either receive a passing mark or accumulated points that would allow them to receive a high score at the end of the semester.
The problem with the conventional method is that the teachers are unable to find out the reason why students fail. They can only determine that some of the students have the capacity to absorb the material presented in class. But they also are unaware of the entire process and therefore fail to replicate the same results with students that perform poorly.
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At the same time they are unable to communicate to the students that there are certain areas that they have to improve on. The different types of information given to them are mashed together as one, and therefore, it is difficult to correctly assess how this information was internalized by the students.
In order to satisfy the criteria given earlier, it is not only enough to make minor changes, it is time to transform traditional grading systems and change it from the inside out. Teachers must change not only the grading system but also on how they develop the exams. In this regard it is time to move beyond the mere regurgitation of content and instead focus on developing class-room based performance assessments.
It is important to begin with limitations. The new grading system may look good on paper but may prove to be useless because of numerous constraints. Thus, classroom-based performance assessments must be limited on three different types of tasks. The first one is the writing process; the second one is the speaking process; and the third one is the activity process. These are expounded in the following statements.
The writing process is similar to writing an essay but it must be guided by a rubric focusing on the ability of the student to explain a process, event, and insights gleaned from reading a particular article or watching a video. The rubric informs the students what is expected of them.
For example, the rubric demands that the student provides a clear explanation of a process or develop an argument that will convince readers to accept the solution that they have provided for a particular problem. In this way, a classroom-based performance assessment encourages students to use what they have learned. They are not expected to merely repeat the information to their teachers like automatons, but as members of a community that are able to develop solutions to problems.
The second type is the speaking process that will strengthen the public speaking skills of the students. In the same way, a rubric must be developed to guide students on expected outcomes. Students must explain a particular process or provide an explanation that will convince listeners to adopt a particular solution.
Teachers must be careful not to merely focus on the feasibility of the solution but to give more attention to the strength of the argument. It will also help determine if the student was able to merge together the information gleaned from the study of the course materials and link it to the problems encountered in a real-world setting.
The third type is the activity process. In this type of classroom-based learning assessment, students are given the ability to go beyond the writing and speaking process. In this type of assessment students are given the opportunity to develop a more creative way of presenting ideas and solutions to problems.
Students can use props and materials that can be manipulated in class in order to prove a point. They can also develop a project that is tied to the local community. This is a time-bound project and governed by a rubric designed by the teacher. The rubric can specifically dictate the limitations of the said project while at the same time provide guidelines on what is considered as an acceptable activity based on the materials covered in class.
It must be made clear that the rubric is the key component of the classroom-based performance assessment. Thus, the students are given clear directives on what must be done in order to satisfy the performance assessment criteria. At the same time the students are well-aware of what is expected of them. The teacher is not only expected to give them a grade, but feedbacks as well.
Resistance to Change
The most important hurdle to the proposed change in the grading system is the notion that students must be rewarded based on their effort and their performance. This erroneous mindset is a stumbling block because students must realize that a reward is based on performance alone. This new grading system eliminates the need to consider effort aside from tangible results. But students and teachers alike may resist change because it has become a part of the learning tradition to reward effort and performance at the same time.
The second major resistance to change can come from the teachers. They can easily point to the limitations of time and other resources. At first glance it is indeed time consuming because teachers are required to provide feedback for every student. In the traditional grading system, teachers are merely required to declare the result of the exam and nothing more.
The third resistance can also come from the teachers. In the new grading system they are required to overhaul their existing lesson plans. Their current lesson plans are filled with quizzes and exams that simply assess the ability of the students to memorize disjointed information. It is hard work for them because they may have to start from scratch. Thus, a new grading system can be very difficult for old teachers to accept. On the other hand it may be easier for new teachers to easily adapt to changes imposed by learning institutions.
The fourth resistance can come from both teachers and students because of the difficulty in developing and understanding the rubric for each type of assessment process. The teachers may find it extremely difficult to develop a rubric on their own without the help of an expert. On the other hand, students may object to the fact that a rubric can be viewed as vague standards that can be interpreted in different ways.
The four levels of resistance outlined above can be overcome provided that the teacher and the students are willing to improve their performance. In the case of the issue regarding effort versus performance, students and teachers alike must realize that the real world does not reward striving but tangible results. This may seem harsh to young minds, but college students must have the maturity to understand the realities of the outside world.
It does not benefit these students if the learning institutions shelter them from the harsh realities of life. Nevertheless, there is a better way to make them realize that it is better to develop habits that require them to focus on end-results as opposed to mere activities alone.
Furthermore, teachers and students can be swayed to adopt the new system, if they will realize that a well-developed rubric can provide correct guidelines on the things that must be done to affect change in their performance. The rubric tells them that there is an expected outcome and this outcome is not impossible to achieve because it is based on the materials covered in class. Nevertheless, they have to learn the skill needed to accomplish the criteria contained in the said rubric.
Teachers may complain about the lack of resources and the limitations imposed by time. This can be overcome because quizzes and other long exams are eliminated from the teaching process. They are no longer required to spend time developing exams that cannot provide a clear assessment of the skills needed by the students to succeed in a real world setting. However, the teachers must limit the number of activities and projects that are required for this particular semester.
Teachers may resist change based on the need to overhaul their current lesson plans. But they must realize that the old method is ineffective and inefficient. They must realize that a teacher’s duty is not merely to find a practical way to develop exams but for his students to learn the skills necessary to succeed beyond the four walls of a classroom. A more practical approach is to introduce the new grading system to new teachers and not to those who are already veterans in the teaching profession and near retirement age.
The most difficult challenge to overcome is the skill to develop an appropriate rubric for each type of classroom-based performance assessment activity. It must be pointed out that the ability to speak, write and engage in a group activity requires different types of skills.
For example, there are students who are confident with their writing skills but are terrified with the prospect of speaking in front of the class. There are also those who have the ability to organize an event or talk to different people with ease but may not have the patience to sit down and write an essay. There is also the concern that teachers may complain of their inability to develop a rubric from scratch and may require the help of an expert.
These problems can be easily overcome wit a concerted effort by teachers and school officials. They can come up with a standard rubric that will help the students understand the requirements for a specific performance assessment tool. For example in the “writing process” the rubric does not only cover the need to write with the use of correct grammar but also the need to develop students’ writing skills.
Teachers are made aware of the fact that with a rubric, they are no longer pressured to give a grade based on subjective assessments. The use of the rubric gives them a guide as to what they need to look for in order to assess the capability of the students. Finally, students must be made aware that a classroom-based performance assessment may require a major shift in their thinking but it is more exciting compared to exams and quizzes.
In this new grading system the students are able to satisfy the criteria provided earlier. They have a new system that encourages them to strive harder because of an effective and inefficient feedback mechanism incorporate into the said protocol. They will know their strengths and their weaknesses. But most importantly they can make a connection with the skills and information learned in the classroom and the issues in the real world.
This new grading system forces the students and the teachers to focus on performance and not mere effort alone. This mindset must be instilled in the hearts of all the students because it is an important component to success in life.
Students are rewarded not by their ability to cram information into their heads but the capacity to access this information in the creation of solutions. It is an exhilarating and satisfying experience that hastens the transition from adolescence to adulthood. It gives them the confidence to face the challenges of living.
In the aftermath of an activity that attempted to revise an existing grading system, the students provided feedback based on their point of view. Thus, it was not surprising for them to point out the struggle between effort and performance. Most of the students would like to be rewarded based on their efforts and the outcome of their actions. In the real world this is not the case. They also said that it may be difficult for students and teachers to adjust to a new system.
The solution to these challenges is to simply convince them that a new grading system is more effective and efficient. In the end it is not their high test scores that guarantee success in life, but their ability to perform well, based on certain expectations. Success is also based on their ability to solve problems. The new grading system enables them to develop these two important skills. However, it is important to deal with the challenges of establishing a new grading system.