Several times during the school year, I ask my students to complete a teacher evaluation. It’s great: I get feedback from them, they see that I care about their opinion, and they see the changes in the classroom based on their responses. On our final survey at the end of the school year, I received the following reply to the “Anything else you’d like to add?” question:
By being allowed to be part of the class not just a student in a class really helped.
At first, I was happy. It was a huge compliment. A classroom culture of community is something I strive for.
But then I felt sad.
What was going on in this student’s other classes?
So, what do you all do to help students be “part of the class” rather than “in a class?”
In a recent blog post, Jason Buell writes about the foundation of trust in standards-based grading. Jason nails it, but I blew it.
Last year was the first time I used SBG. I didn’t grade homework. As the months passed, my AP Physics C students gradually did less and less homework. Why? I think they seemed to be searching for the balance between (1) How much work do they need to do and (2) The grade they want to get. After all, these are the brightest students in the school and probably never needed to do homework to learn and self-assess. In the past, they just did homework to get points.
By second quarter, they all stopped doing the homework . And they all failed the subsequent quizzes, meaning they weren’t proficient in most of the learning targets. Surely an intervention was required! So I broke the trust and made homework an entrance ticket for future quizzes. 80% of the homework complete allowed them to take the quiz. No homework , no quiz. Non-completers had to work on the homework during quiz time and then arrange an after-school time to take the quiz.
You know what happened? The situation became WORSE. Homework got done, but not for learning and self-assessment. Many were STILL not meeting learning targets because they approached homework the wrong way. The entrance ticket method gave my homework the undeserved reputation of busy work, despite being a carefully structured and scaffolded set of problems and assignments.
And then there were a few students who let everything slide to the end of the quarter. A quarter’s worth of homework was done hastily at the last minute and, of course, learning targets were not met.
So I admitted my mistake and revoked the 80% homework rule. Homework became completely optional again. But I had done permanent damage. While only a handful of students returned to doing homework for the proper reasons (and it showed on their assessments), the majority still did very little. I had not taught them trust and the value of meaningful homework.
It wasn’t until reading Jason’s post that I made the connection that I had broke trust and had not been good model. Thanks, Jason. I suspect next year will be much better!