Thursday, September 20, 2012

Preparing For The Complaints That Didn't Show Up

Here's a short list of my most-hated student questions:

1) Is this going to be graded?

2) How much will this bring up/down my grade?

3) What can I do to bring up my grade?

4) Do I get points for trying?

5) Will I get extra credit for doing this?

Do you notice a theme?  In all fairness to these students, they have been conditioned their entire lives that the grade is what is most important, not the knowledge they have.

When I made the decision to try to make this shift with my students from an emphasis on grades to one on knowledge, I have to admit, I was ready for the worst.  And then it hit.  It was the second day of school, I asked the students to work with a partner to complete some questions when a student's hand flew up in the air, "Is this going to be graded?"  My response was, "I look at and evaluate everything you do in this class." and left it at that.

I decided to no longer show students their grades on minor assignments like classwork, entrance tickets, exit tickets, etc.  I keep record of those things on paper and keep that information to myself.  And by grades, I mean colors (red, yellow, and green).  Once I see a lot of green on the score sheet, I know it's time for a test.  Note: I do put a grade on the test.

When I handed back their first assignment without a grade I was ready.  I spent the entire night before mentally preparing for the backlash:  What's my grade?  Why should I do it if you're not going to grade it?  What's the point of doing all this work if it's not going to bring our grade up?
I rehearsed my responses and knew that I was going to stay cool and stick to my guns.

But then this strange thing happened...
I gave back the assignment that had no grade on it, only comments, and asked the students to make corrections and hand it back in.  Not one word about a grade and the students readily got to work on corrections.

Next assignment:  same thing.  No word about their grade.

It's now the 17th day of school and I only had that one question about grades.

The good things that I have noticed from this:

1) In the past 17 days, I only caught one student cheating/copying.  In the past, where assignments were scored, I saw at least 10 students copying by this time of the year.

2) If my memory serves me, the students complained about the work I asked them to do in the past.  This year, when I ask the students to get started, they get started.

3) Students readily help their neighbors when they are confused.  I wonder if this is because the competition of grades is eliminated.  I'm not sure why this is happening on it's own this year, when it didn't in previous years.

I'm hoping this trend continues.  I'll keep you posted.


  1. I work for home direct ripoff and specialize in listening to complaints on a daily basis. It is safe to say that you dislike the questions your student ask you. However, your complaints can actually be very constructive. It is important that you let your students know about the complaints you have because they will only learn from it.

  2. I have started grading my students on a version of your color system. I mark assignments with the red, yellow, and green, and only count them for credit/no credit. I have had a lot FEWER points/grade questions and conplaints and a lot MORE participation and homework completion.

  3. My district requires us to have at least 8 daily grades and 3 test grades per six weeks. How do you get the required number of grades with this system?

    1. Luckily, my district does not have a requirement about the number of grades submitted. We did in the past, but that was eliminated when we asked to try this system. Our administrators are very open-minded. If this is something you would like to try, ask your admins, they might surprise you.

  4. I'd love to know more about your "grading" system; how you keep track of the colors and whatnot. Do you have a post on that?
    Thanks (: