Today marks the day when I asked my students to assess their learning and artistic growth and to give themselves the grade they think they earned over the past 3 weeks for the very first time. I was challenged to go gradeless this year. And, as much as I want to go completely gradeless, I can’t. Grading once a 3 weeks is the closest I can get at the high school level at this particular moment in history.
I had done a bunch of research on this subject, but found that the Facebook group Teachers Throwing Out Grades and the Starr Sackstein book Hacking Assessment really helped me to understand how to make going gradeless possible.
I came up with an assessment form for my students to fill out where they talked about what they are learning and/or how they have grown. It wasn’t an easy thing to do. I had to think about what I really wanted from them. Did I just want them to talk about their learning in general, or did I want them to be more specific. I chose the more specific route and asked them to reflect on their growth and understanding of the artistic behaviors. I think this helps to have them focus on their artistic journey and what I feel are important concepts I want them to learn in my class. It also helped to make a “general” assessment form, but still be able to individualize the assessment form. They can choose to talk about the areas where they grew. And, as a bonus, it helps me to know how to better help the students as we move forward.
Let me tell you how scared I was this morning. I was nervous that I was making a huge mistake; that maybe I just needed to go back to traditional grading in art…maybe use my standards based rubric again. But, as I sat down and listened to the keyboard noise in the quiet room, and answered questions for clarification, and began to read the responses, I knew I was doing the right thing. Is it perfect yet? No. Is every student going to take it 100% seriously? No. Will the students be better off by the end of the year having assessed like this? I think so. Are their answers as deep as they could be? Not yet, but that will come in time. Remember, I am asking them to do something they have probably never been asked to do before…and that’s a big deal.
I wanted to end this post with some screen shots from the students answers that wowed me today. It’s more than I hoped for this time around.