My Quest Toward Going Gradeless

It’s all coming together: mastery objectives by skill category, rubrics, formative assessment, collaborative learning, portfolios, and conferences dominate the plan.

(Day 23 of my 30-Day Writing Challenge)

Photo by Zainul Yasni on Unsplash

Starting with Structure, Moving Toward Personalized Learning

Going gradeless provides a structure in which learning actually becomes personalized. Students work with the tools they need to become self-directed learners.

For example, the rubric is a conversation starter. The discussion of its components provides students direction, which they use as they work. It shows the criteria upon which their progress will be assessed. Students can use that knowledge during conferences to ask for clarification about the assessment result. Instead of competing for the highest score, students focus on their progress.

During formative assessment, the teacher observes the student and gives constructive feedback. Again, it’s personal, tailored to the student within a solid context, namely those skill categories and discrete skills of each category.

The Power of Formative Assessment and Collaboration

Formative assessment has the most impact, in my opinion, when students and teachers work on assignments that take longer than a class period and require students to revise their responses. The essay assignments I have planned afford us more time for formative assessment, for instance, but my plan is to take more time with each work-product.

Collaboration buttresses formative assessment in the appropriate learning environment. I have a poster on my wall that declares we are a team (see below). I emphasize a noncompetitive environment in which we help each other. Teamwork is less intimidating when the student knows how supportive the other students are supposed to be.

Created Using Canva

Another benefit of collaboration is what I call the “opportunity for translation.” I have often said, “Sometimes, your classmate will explain something that resonates with you more than my explanation.” I have proven it too, over the years. Whenever I notice a communication glitch, I ask if there is someone willing to “translate” what I just said. I love the results.

Ah, language…

Developing Analytical Skills with Portfolios and Conferences

We work on analytical skills as we analyze a writer’s work, but rarely analyze our work. I want to change that this year. Why not put our analytical skills to the test with our own stuff?

Analyzing Our Own Stuff Is Beneficial to the Whole Person, Not Just the Student

  • By reflecting on drafts and assessment results in our portfolios, we find progress over time.
  • As we acknowledge our progress, we may also find evidence of skills we need to work harder on.
  • We are doing metacognitive work during the process, thinking about our thinking.
  • We are pulling quantitative and qualitative data from our portfolios, discovering themes that either help or hinder our progress.
  • When we reflect on our performance, we discover ourselves.

Supporting the Analysis with Conferences

I envision preparing students for their first conference by modeling what I imagine an analysis of the portfolio looks like. Then, students analyze their portfolio, following my example.

During a conference, the student presents his or her findings and evidence. I ask clarifying and probing questions. We agree on the student’s next steps toward progress. The student documents our conversation and adds the notes to the portfolio to reference in future assignments.

That’s Where I Am, and This Is Where I am Going

Now that I have my structure, I will evaluate the existing content of the course and make adjustments if necessary. Units 1–9 are planned, but plans are only perfect the moment you write them. Once you meet students where they are, those plans will need tweaking.

School does not start for another week, so my posts about content will have to wait.

If you have suggestions for structure, or anything really, I encourage you to leave a comment on this post.

Thank you for reading this, my twenty-third post in my 30-Day Writing Challenge.

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