The personal learning network for educators
Somewhere along the way we created an educational mindset around practice and homework that determined that if we don’t count it, the students won’t do it. This idea that everything counts is wrought with misrules and situation that make accurate grades a near impossibility. In so many other aspects of life – fine arts, athletics - we value the impact and importance of practice. It seems odd that in school we’ve decided that every moment should be measured.
Here is my position:
Anytime a student makes a first attempt at practicing new learning it should not be included in the grade book until the teacher provides descriptive feedback on the student’s work.
First, let me clarify my view on the difference between practice and homework.
From my perspective, I don’t have any issues with this type of homework counting toward a final grade; my issue is when practice counts. Here’s why:
1) Whose work is it? When students take work home there is always the possibility of outside influence. Older siblings, parents, friends can (and one might argue should) be involved in supporting the student as he/she increases their understanding of the key learning. The problem arises when practice results go into the grade book. The outside influences could affect assessment accuracy and distort achievement results.
2) Flawless Instruction? The idea that I can teach something once and 30 diverse learners can now go home and proficiently complete an assignment is absurd. We can’t assume that our instructional practices are so flawless that 30 different students (or even more if you teach multiple sections) will all get it at the end of the block…every day; even the most exceptional teachers can’t do that.
3) Clear directions? Even with the best intentions, we are not always clear with the directions we provide to students for completing the work independently. That’s the key – independently. It is also possible that we were clear but some students misunderstood, which is their responsibility, however, it wouldn’t be the first time a student, especially a vulnerable learner, misunderstood what they were supposed to do.
4) With or without me? This, of course, will shift as students become more mature, but in general, I’d rather students do the vast majority of their learning with me rather than without me. By doing so, I can more accurately assess (not test) where they are along their learning continuum.
5) Score the GAMES, not the practice. There is a lot wrong within the professional sports world, but they do understand the importance of practice. There is training camp, where they wear all of the equipment but it’s not a real game. Then they have exhibition games which look, sound, and smell like real games – even charge the public real prices – but they don’t count. Yes, they even keep score, but the games are zero weighted…they don’t matter. Then they play the regular season, which counts, except nobody really cares who’s in first place after that because all that matters is who won the championship. Somehow we need to have more “training camps”, “exhibition games”, and even “regular games” before our academic play-offs!
Two additional thoughts:
My bias on Practice was/is this.
I think our students need room to breathe at school. If every moment is graded students will play it safe, become passive learners, and never stretch themselves to their potential.
(Originally posted at http://tomschimmer.com/ on March 11, 2011)