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Opening Remarks - Ken O'Connor

Page history last edited by Jennifer Borgioli 11 years, 3 months ago

Ken O'Connor introduces himself (he has an aol.com email address and uses a Mac, background as a classroom teacher, currently lives in Canada, following European adventures, and sounds like an Australian)


Keynote - O'Connor.pdf (handouts)


Ken is opening with commentary on differences between Americans, Canadians, Brits, and Aussies - his approach today will be through story telling. Walked us through his use and support of story telling (slides 1-5).


Told several stories about learners experiencing difficulty with grades. Student rationalizing he didn't have to do odd problems because the night before he did all even and got them right; student who got a C one semester, meet with professor the following semester to get extra help - got an A. Wondered if A came from "face time" or increased content knowledge.


Issues in grading: achievement, evidence, calculation, learning


Tables broke off to tell their own stories about grading. Group members are telling their own stories (having table mates point at the person at their table with the "most compelling" story). He uses this strategy with many groups and classifies groups based on how well they cooperate. He scores us low (we weren't very cooperative, apparently). He only saw a few tables where someone was being pointed at with very enthusiastic pointing.


Story 1: College professor who says on day 1 only a handful will get A's, most will be B's, some will get C's and be kicked out. Speaker "only got a B+" and never learned why but the professor did push her farther and she learned more than in any other class. Ken talked about the use of the bell curve and an over-reliance on calculation and distribution, rather than achievement.


Story 2: 3rd grade story. Speaker did his very best on a test, handed it in, got it back with an F. Teacher then told him he was "stupid and will never be as good as your brother!". When he looked at his answer key, he realized he put the answers in the wrong order, but got them all right. Ken shared a story about being compared to his sisters when growing up.


Story 3: 3rd grade story. Speaker took a standardized test to determine who would be in accelerated reading group. She remembers the questions on the test. Realized other students in the room were asking questions so she went back and changed her answers. Her name appeared on the list to be an accelerated reader and she was so excited "to be smart" but didn't do well on first test in the accelerated class as she hadn't read the book in her previous reading class. Was pulled from accelerated class and told they made a mistake. The crowd went "awwww". Ken highlights issue of over-reliance on one measure, lack of quality evidence (problem with assessment.


Mentioned Ruth Sutten - assessment of learning


Grading is one of the most private things that teachers do - often act as independent contractors. We often do it 'because that's the way it's always been done."


Shared slide 13 - experiences of students at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County.


Shared this thinking about the role of extrinsic versus intrinsic motivation. There is a critical need to discuss our purpose of grading. Shared quote (slide 16) “the primary purpose of . . grades . . . (is) to communicate student achievement to students, parents, school administrators, post-secondary institutions and employers.”


Slide 17 - Raised an "essential question" - this is our wiki so I'm going to comment that these aren't ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS! They're important but by no means essential. My essential question: Can we quantify learning? Now that's essential.


The Essential Question(s)

How confident are you that the grades students get in your school are:

* consistent

* meaningful, and

* supportive of learning?


Well, Angela and I don't have to do our session - he just said exactly what we're doing. Standards should drive the gradebook.


We need to get away from focusing on single subject grades (i.e math, reading, etc.) - if he ran the world, there wouldn't be single-subject grades until 11 and 12th and that's only because of intersection with college.


I went to refill my water bottle and missed some context because he was showing this:


Got it!

Nearly there!

Oh no! Oops!

I get frustrated when we treat new learners as a bad thing. Being a novice or new is okay.


Ken's Big Ideas:

1. Base grades on, and provide grades for, the intended learning goals, which means very limited use of single subject grades.

2. Use performance standards with a limited number (2-7) of clearly described levels which means no use of a percentage scale.

3. Limit the student attributes included in grades to Individual ACHIEVEMENT, which means no penalties and no bonuses.

4. Grade performance, learn from practice. Comment only no mark formative assessment and homework has little or any place in grades.

5. Grade in pencil, which means new evidence replaces old evidence and grades cannot be determined only numerically.

6. Don’t be a mean teacher -  “crunch” numbers carefully, if at all, which means no zeros, no percentages, and acknowledging that grading is primarily an exercise in professional judgment.


Enduring Understandings

1. There are no right grades only justifiable grades.

2. Nothing really changes till the grade book and the report card both change.


Fixes for ingredients that distort achievement:

1. Don’t include student behavior (effort, participation, etc) in grades; include only achievement.

2. Don’t reduce marks on ‘work’ submitted late; provide support.

3. Don’t give points for extra credit or use bonus points; seek evidence of a higher level of achievement

4. Don’t punish academic dishonesty with reduced grades; apply behavioral consequences and reassess.

5. Don’t consider attendance in grade determination; record only absences.

6. Don’t include group scores in grades; use only individual achievement evidence.


Fixes for low quality or poorly organized evidence

7. Don’t organize information around assessment methods; use standards/learning goals.

8. Don’t assign grades using inappropriate or unclear performance standards; provide clear descriptions.

9. Don’t assign grades based on student’s achievement compared to other students; use absolute standards.

10. Don’t rely on evidence from assessments that fail to meet standards of quality; check against standards.


Fixes for inappropriate number crunching

11. Don’t be a ‘mean’ teacher relying on ‘the average’ - consider other measures of central tendency.

12 Don’t include zeros as a reflection of lack of achievement or as punishment; use alternatives, such as Incomplete.


Fixes to support the learning process

13. Don’t use information from formative assessments and practice to determine grades; use only summative evidence.

14. Don’t accumulate evidence over time and use all of it when learning is developmental and will grow with time and repeated opportunities; emphasize recent achievement.

15. Don’t leave students out of the grading process- they can play key roles that promote achievement; involve students.



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