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Thread: unbiased grading

  1. #1
    solid motherhubbard's Avatar
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    unbiased grading

    I'm having a hard time, even with a rubric. I'm finding that even my most advanced kids are not getting advanced scores in writing. I wonder if I'm being too hard, then I wonder if I'm being to easy. Sometimes when I know a child has really improved and done their best I have to make myself consider how I would feel if it were another child's paper.

    I think grading is the most challenging part of teaching. Well, maybe not the MOST challenging part, but's it's much harder than I thought it would be.

    What do you do to overcome bias and insure even handedness?

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    something witty blackbird_9's Avatar
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    I teach ballet, so it's rather different. I still waned to throw my two cents in because I'm passionate about education, and I owe so much gratitude to some amazing academic instructors I've had in the past. I can wholeheartedly understand the dilemma. I want to reward improvement and hard work; sometimes I do see more of it in my more beginning students than my advanced ones. Yet, I know that I would be doing the students a greater disservice by advancing them to the next level when they're not ready despite dedication and improvement. There are those students who do have natural ability and will be able to handle more advanced levels and progress at a quicker rate. It's just heartbreaking when I'm telling an 8 year old who's been in the same level much longer, works just as hard, yet still needs to be further along to advance.
    In general, my opinion is to provide encouragement by various means but still grade based on the realistic ability of their performing in the next class. It just sets them up for falling further behind. I lucked out in english, but i experienced this with French in high school. My first two years were horrific and I learned nothing, but I was passed anyway. I changed schools and went into French III. Within two weeks, I was already failing. I took it upon myself to convince my counselor to let me repeat french II. I worked my butt off and got a C+, but it was one of the better learning experiences in my life.

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    Registered User sithkittie's Avatar
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    I teach EFL, and yeah, I really understand what you're saying. Some kids do absolutely nothing but goof off in class, but their English is decent, and some kids work their butts off and are just not good at (or don't know how to, which I think is more the case in Japanese EFL) learning languages. I have all levels in the same classes too, kids who've lived abroad and are basically fluent and kids who've studied with poor teachers for barely two years. It's really hard not to be biased, and not to take out any irritation on the disruptive students who happen to have lived abroad and are fluent in English already. I give myself really specific criteria for what amounts to points lost on speeches, for example certain words that they should know how to pronounce cost more points if they fail to pronounce them correctly, a pause at the end of a sentence to think about the next sentence is okay for so many seconds but one inside of a sentence costs a point. It ends up feeling almost too mathematical a lot of the times, and sometimes I really hate holding kids to it, especially when I can see they're trying. I don't know how comforting it is to them when it doesn't reflect in their grades very much, but I'll often comment with things like "Very good" or "Well done" when I see an improvement even if their grades are still abysmal.

    I worry sometimes that the low scores are discouraging to the kids, but, at least for me, low grades were always a sign that I needed to do something better myself. I only had one class where I could honestly say it wasn't entirely my fault that I got bad scores. And I have had students see their grades and suddenly get very involved in the class and really try to do better.

    Those are my feelings anyway. Japan's education system is very different than what I grew up with though, and that itself causes a lot of the problems I'm finding in my classes, like the fluent kids in with the kids who really should have failed first year English - nobody fails any classes until high school, and even then most are just passed through. I've also been told directly to make the class average a specific number, and then got in trouble when the resulting average was higher than the department wanted. It's definitely one of the more difficult parts of teaching... which really surprised me. I didn't expect that.

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    No matter how much of a perfect you create, it is my belief that no grading is purely objective, nor should it be. I think every student's individual abilities need to be taken into account when grading. That's just how I feel.

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    All are at the crossroads qimissung's Avatar
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    You might try having them put their name on the back, although you are going to recognize their handwriting after a while. I think you should take individual differences into account, as Mutatis said, and looking for growth is a good idea.

    You might, if there's time, have them do some writing, just a paragraph here and there, little creative writing exercises, that you don't specifically grade, maybe a little notebook that they keep it all in. You can look at it periodically and write something kind and encouraging and give the whole thing a 100 every grading period. Because they don't necessarily understand that you are assessing. They think you are giving your opinion-and it's not a good one.

    You might check out "Steering the Craft: Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing for the Lone Navigator or the Mutinous Crew" by Ursula Le Guin for some ideas.

    Unless they are reading and writing a lot you are probably not going to see a lot of growth. Good luck.
    "The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its' own reason for existing." ~ Albert Einstein
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    Quote Originally Posted by qimissung View Post
    You might, if there's time, have them do some writing, just a paragraph here and there, little creative writing exercises, that you don't specifically grade, maybe a little notebook that they keep it all in. You can look at it periodically and write something kind and encouraging and give the whole thing a 100 every grading period. Because they don't necessarily understand that you are assessing. They think you are giving your opinion-and it's not a good one.
    I had them do half-page journals, sometimes on a topic (usually something about them; a high school student loves nothing more than discussing him or herself), or sometimes just a free-write. I always commented. It's important that they know you read what they write and actually think about it. Ask a follow up question, relate a story about yourself (personal reciprocation is good, to a point), etc. Just let them know you are actually reading what they write.

    As for grading, when I did assignments like these, I'd just so a completion grade, and wouldn't worry about grammar (unless there was something particularly atrocious); I save that for the more formal assignments.

  7. #7
    solid motherhubbard's Avatar
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    My students are very young, 2nd grade. We have have 17 hours of reading and writing each week. They keep notebooks and write for every subject, and I pull in mentor text to go along with all of the content areas. Their reading instruction and practice is differentiated. I have never seen a program like the school where I work. I'm amazed at the difference I see every day. I have one student who came in reading at a preprimer and is now at grade level. I started the year with 10 students reading below grade level and now I'm down to 5. I only have two (and maybe 3) who will not be able to catch up this year.

    I graded some writing samples and felt that I was much harder on my higher students. I asked another teacher to grade and there were some differences. It was really interesting to see. I think when it's time for grade cards I will have at least one other teacher grade the samples.

    Thanks for the book suggestion

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    All are at the crossroads qimissung's Avatar
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    You are beyond fortunate. I see my students every other day which means that for English I see them at most three times a week. We do not work with them to bring them up to their correct reading level;that has never been suggested as an option although we estimate that about 80% of our students do not read at grade level.
    "The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its' own reason for existing." ~ Albert Einstein
    "Remember, no matter where you go, there you are." Buckaroo Bonzai
    "Some people say I done alright for a girl." Melanie Safka

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    Hi, I'm 19 years old, still suffering judgment from the grading system. I want to add that realistic, objective grades are important for kids of all ages; you're telling them what they're good at and what they need to improve on. If English does not happen to be a certain kid's cup of tea then s/he should know that. Sacrificing guidance for feelings can be dangerous, as it does not facilitate development.
    I don't think most student's take the grades that a teacher gives personally. I have found that my favorite teachers have not been the ones that have just given me the highest grades, but the ones that have actually informed me the most.

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    Skol'er of Thinkery The Comedian's Avatar
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    MH -- personally, I hate rubrics and the idea of "objective grading" for non-objective ideas or products. . .like writing. There's no denying it -- good writing has a feel. And while structure and grammar may be measured objectively, good writing, while having some objective elements is not an entirely objective product.

    So maybe just create a rubric for the objective parts: grammar, spelling, syntax. . . .and a subjective section for feedback. I know that you are dealing with young writers, in which case such a balance is even more necessary, I think.

    But yeah, grading is the hardest part of the job. Teachin's the fun part.
    “Oh crap”
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  11. #11
    Original Poster Buh4Bee's Avatar
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    One idea to remember Mother is that they are still developing this skill in second grade. They have just learned to write. It's like expecting a toddler to run a mile after just learning to walk. I know the rubrics and standards are there staring at you, glaring at you. But try to keep things in perspective- the children are just beginning to developing the skill. They really won't be even moderately competent until maybe fourth grade. Model for them, model for them, and then slowly pull the scaffold away. Give them Explicit instruction, practice as a group, practice each step after you teacher it. Practice again- just like teaching to ride a bike or tie shoes. It is the same idea. Repetitive practice.

  12. #12
    solid motherhubbard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by qimissung View Post
    You are beyond fortunate. ... We do not work with them to bring them up to their correct reading level;that has never been suggested as an option although we estimate that about 80% of our students do not read at grade level.
    I am bery fortunate. I'm down to two students reading below end of year levels. 13 are reading at end of third grade levels or beyond. Amazing really. It's the program. It's a lot of work, but seeing those kinds or results makes it worth it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cunninglinguist View Post
    Hi, I'm 19 years old, still suffering judgment from the grading system. I want to add that realistic, objective grades are important for kids of all ages; you're telling them what they're good at and what they need to improve on... Sacrificing guidance for feelings can be dangerous, as it does not facilitate development.
    All great stuff Cun- Thanks for responding. This is something that has been very hard for me and you're right.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Comedian View Post
    But yeah, grading is the hardest part of the job. Teachin's the fun part.
    Amen! I'm focusing more on what I believe is right than what the rubric says.


    Quote Originally Posted by jersea View Post
    One idea to remember Mother is that they are still developing this skill in second grade. They have just learned to write. It's like expecting a toddler to run a mile after just learning to walk. I know the rubrics and standards are there staring at you, glaring at you. But try to keep things in perspective- the children are just beginning to developing the skill. They really won't be even moderately competent until maybe fourth grade. Model for them, model for them, and then slowly pull the scaffold away. Give them Explicit instruction, practice as a group, practice each step after you teacher it. Practice again- just like teaching to ride a bike or tie shoes. It is the same idea. Repetitive practice.
    Advice from a pro. I think all of the modeling makes teaching more fun and outcomes more rewarding. You make a great point about being compent. Fourth grade posted some friendly letters in the hall and I decided I've been too hard on my kids.

  13. #13
    Indie Bookstore gbebooks's Avatar
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    I taught English for twenty years. A rubric has its pros and cons. Some kids liked them because it told them exactly what "I" was looking for. A rubric also makes it easy to justify a grade.
    However, a lot of what I'm looking for in writing can be spelled out and can't be given a numerical rating (grade).

    Like The Comedian said, Good writing has a feel. But that's hard to teach, except through practice, more practice, and plenty of examples. Sadly, admins and parents don't like it when teachers grade on abstract qualities.

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    My english teacher had us type our essays, and on a separate sheet of paper type only our name, so that it would not be seen as he graded the essay.

    He soon admitted that, after the fourth essay, he could identify one based on their style, and hence bias influenced how he graded some essays. But because he graded based on progression (how has one improved since they entered our class), each student had an essentially different rubric.

  15. #15
    Original Poster Buh4Bee's Avatar
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    Some teachers share too much. It isn't helpful to anyone and it is not necessary to explain every step in the grading process.

    One of the struggles teachers face with rubrics is that the rubric is based an grade standards, this means that each child either can or cannot meet the standard. It holds each student to be measured by the grade expectation, not the teacher's discretion. This can strip the teacher's power to grade the student on individual progress, but instead forces her to grade the student as part of a class population. Although, I personally am more generous and more of my students meet the standard, at least on paper.

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