Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Forecasting Marks

Sometimes you have to just get out of the way, and let your students work.  Sometimes you must creep around the classroom, observing but a NINJA!  If your students see you, tell them "you can't see me, I am a ninja" and move on.

I tried to stay out of the way as when I walked around, the majority of the questions needed to be answered by reviewing my instructions, the screencast, or the samples of work I provided.  By getting out of the way, or forcing the students to walk across the room to get my help, often students would talk to a neighbour or just review the instructions themselves.

But sometimes, it pays to go around the room and make forecasts.  Because of the nature of my course, I would often get 120 assignments at a time on my desk.  My course was short, approx. 7.5 weeks, so I had to mark all the assignments, and turn them around really quickly.  So, to save myself time, I would take my markbook around the room with me, and then talk with students about their work.  I would always refer to the criteria, or the broad strokes of the assignment.  I was careful not to compare them to any other students, but to what I felt they were capable of accomplishing in class, if they applied themselves.  I would then "forecast" their mark, usually a score out of 5 (Not Meeting Expectations, Minimally Meeting, Meeting, Fully Meeting, or Exceeding Expectations).  Often, students would ask, how do I get a higher score?  I would then ask them to think about their work ethic, quality of work, the criteria of the assignment.  They usually found their own answer.  Sometimes when they were doing really well, we would talk about "taking it to the next level" and I would tell the kid to relax, they are doing well, but what could they do to go beyond the assignment based on their interest.

As a result, I saved myself time on marking (changing forecasts is easy if you write in pencil, or save it to a spreasheet), and I usually got better quality work from my students when they turned it in at the end of the given time.

Assessment comes from the latin "to sit beside".  I think that this method of gathering marks was my favourite.  It enabled me to focus kids on what mattered, and I got to know them better.

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