The end of the school year brings the thing that many teachers often dread – paperwork and grading. Grading papers, grading reports, grading performance. At times it may prove to be quite a hectic time for teachers as they finish up their remaining responsibilities before summer break begins. This can lead teachers to follow some common grading practices, which you may be surprised to know can do more harm than good.

Many teachers grade their students the same way they’ve been grading them for years. They would give specific weights to all the assignments, quizzes, exams, group projects, lab assignments, etc. The other common way is averaging students’ results over the semester to determine the final grades. In this blog, we take a look at some of the ways to avoid traditional yet common grading practices.

1 - Support A Growth Mindset

Sometimes, a grade is more reflective of how a teacher grades than what the student has learned. However, other times, and more often than not, students succumb to the pressures of being assessed and perform poorly compared to a practice setting. This can be due to the all-or-nothing mindset school examinations can bring upon students due to stress or sleep deprivation.

Teachers can allow students to take make-up tests or do extra credit work to emphasize and reward learning and growing rather than penalizing students for it. They can help increase their grades or override previous grades with the more recent ones. This would help students build learning persistence and willingness to grow.

2 - Set Reasonable Expectations

Expectations of students are different now than they were before the pandemic. The process of learning either virtually or in a socially distanced environment is more experimental for them, as it is for parents, teachers and schools. It’s hard to compare students who are learning in different places, under different circumstances, and have a different level of access to class materials. Some students may not have the same amount of access to online materials, and teachers are working on the fly to adapt to the situation.

Teachers need to clearly define and describe what they expect from their students, especially during remote learning or in hybrid learning environments. Provide students with the tools and information they need to succeed in their academics. This can be done by providing detailed assignment descriptions, report guidelines, grading rubrics, or proficiency scales. In addition, teachers can widen their assessment methods and integrate more accurate feedback systems to fairly assess each student’s individual learning in relation to their objectives and outcomes.

3 - Step Away From The Norm

Electronic grading systems should be a thing of the past and administrators and teachers should step away from them. These old and traditional grading methods subtly punish students for not being consistently excellent on paper. It also faults students and fails to recognize their growth from the beginning of a semester to the end of it. This contradicts the growth mindset teachers need to instill in their students.

The 100-point scale creates an illusion of precision that sets unrealistic expectations students will find impossible to reach. These electronic grading systems may be able to find the distinctions between students’ exam answers, but not the differences. Teachers are far from obsolete. When it comes to grading, that human factor is key to step away from the old and traditional grading practices. Teachers know when a student’s work deserves a good grade, when the work shows a student’s complete commitment or determination to succeed, and when students have put in the extra effort into their work.

4 - Don't Panic, Stay Connected

Covid-19 is changing or has changed the way education is taught around the world, and it’s also changing the ways it’s being evaluated. Often silence from students can turn into noise in teachers’ minds. Don’t let the silence get under your skin or bring out your worst fears. In this time of uncertainty, students can revert to silence due to many non-educational factors that have surfaced or developed during these uncertain times. 

For instance, students may struggle with poor connectivity or may not have access to the internet entirely or have any computers at home. There may be more than one student in the family learning from home, with the siblings sharing the computer at home. Communicate with students consistently to identify and possibly remedy certain situations that negatively affect their learning environment and educational progress. 

5 - Be Prepared, Plan Ahead

It’s easy to get caught up in the current unorthodox educational and learning environment triggered by the global pandemic. Teachers and school administrators need to start thinking and planning ahead for what comes next. What procedures and systems should be in place at your school once we’ve successfully overcome the pandemic? Will schools revert back to the educational systems and environments before Covid-19? Or will they move forward in a different approach?

This is the most suitable time to make fundamental changes and to the grading practices and student feedback systems in place at your school. Author and renowned educator, Douglas Reeves, has argued in his work that schools and teachers should incorporate “FAST” grading into their grading systems. “FAST” stands for fair, accurate, specific and timely. Based on his research, he concurs that this can be accomplished through some primary fixes to the existing grading systems in place which can be done before the new school year begins.

Some of these simple changes include eliminating the 100-point scale and the average grade method. It also includes bringing back the letter grading system. At the heart of it, the research conducted by Douglas encourages teachers and schools to embrace these effective grading practices, as they can help reduce failure rates, enhance teacher morale, and encourage student learning.

Grading is one of the most emotionally demanding and toxic subjects in education. Making changes to how schools implement current grading practices is feared amongst many administrators. But what if improving and enhancing grading practices leads to less failing students, higher attendance rates and better teacher morale?

Some schools have reevaluated their grading practices to further enhance their students’ education. We strongly believe that other schools should consider following their lead into the new educational era. It may be difficult to step outside of the educational systems your school has in place. But the changes may be more worthwhile than you think and the results may surprise you in the most positive and rewarding way possible.

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