Homework irks me. I hated homework as a kid and I'm not particualrly fond of it now. I give homework for two reasons only: 1) My school requires I give it 2) Next year my students will transition to a school that gives it and I need to prepare them I hate grading homework more than I hate giving it. How do you grade homework? Do you purely go on correctness? Do you factor in how much of the assignment they complete? What if you have a slow processer, do you grade on what you deem strong effort? What if a student makes the same mistake, over and over again? Do you take off full credit? Partial? Do you take off points for not copying the problem? Not showing all their steps? AHHHHHHHHHH!A colleague of mine calls homework graded effort and classwork graded effort and work. I agree. So... I decided that I was going to have my students grade their own homework. No, I didn't want them to give me a percentage based on how many they got correct. I wanted them to develop a rubric of what they believe is important for completing homework. They also had to persaude me as to why their grade makes sense and why the values/factors they picked for their rubric matter. I handed them an answer key and away they went. Below are some guiding questions I posed to the students. I was very clear to them that these are just starting points and they did not need to include all or any of the factors listed if they did not want to. Students initially did not like the openness of this assignment. S1: What if I think effort is the most important and want it to be worth 100% of my gradeMe: Make it 100% of your grade them{S1 gives me a dumbfounded look} How often do we ask students what is important to them in an assignment? I can give you that answer, almost never. We provide the rubrics and we give meaning within an assignment. For example, I hand a homework grading rubric to my students at the beginning of the year. It is quite complicated, and detailed, but essentially about 80% of the grade is based on completion of the assignment and effort (deemed on attempts toward problems and work shown to the best of their ability -- read: not all my students show their work the same way) and 20% on how correct the answers are. Is that what is important to my students? I can't grade them based on the effort they felt they put in as that's not something I can see. The 20% of the grade based on how correct the assignment was also irks me. If a student has a misconception on a rule or procedure, that misconception will carry through the entire assignment which essentially renders 20% of their grade a 0%. In these instances, I allow redos but I also consider partial credit as a student should not be faulted over and over for the same mistake due to misunderstanding. Below are some examples of the rubrics and grades within the categories that my students created: Grade I Deserve Percent of Overall Grade The student above calculated her "correctness" score by weighting each problem then taking off points. At times she gave herself partial credit if, for example, she forgot parentheses in her answer she got the majority of the points. Below is her break down of her weighted scores. On the left is her finalized point system and on the right is how it plays out on her actual homework. Another example of this is shown below: What I noticed is that students were less likely to give themselves over half credit for small mistakes than I would be. I also know that students would complain if the assignment were left in my hands and I didn't give them credit. Students really are their worst critics. Students then learned how to weight different values to calculate a total grade. Above are some examples of how kids felt they did and what their overall grades added up to. Overall, I was surprised the grades were so low. The students were incredibly hard on themselves in regard to effort. When I asked them in person after why they felt they did not deserve above a B in effort or, as for many, around a 30% for effort, many of the students told me that they never checked over their work, they didn't show any of their thinking on paper and as a result struggled to find their misconception in the problem in order to give themselves partial credit in the "correctness" category. They all felt they could spend more time on the homework. I then had students email me a sentence telling me their grade and stating whether they actually agreed with their rubric system and whether they believe their grade is an accurate reflection of their work. Students are very aware of their own effort and how they approach assignments. Many of my students were shocked by their grades, not happy with their grades, but they realized their own standards of what makes a good math assignment earned them the grade. Some students thought they deserved a B just for doing the assignment and the fact that they got 0% correct was OK because effort to them was most important. This is important for me as a teacher to realize. Not all of my students have internalized the delicate balance of correctness to effort and that is on me to dispell. Many of my students held firmly to their low grades and said they needed to do better. No amount of my grading or telling them that same message would have the same effect on them. The biggest take aways my students had on this assignment were: 1. They needed to check their work once done. Even though I tell them everyday I don't expect them to get it perfect everytime the first time and they need to check themselves. This assignment made it clear to them. 2. Students had to clearly define, for themselves, what effort means. It may not just be completing the assignment. 3. Students wanted to take more time and developed more accountability for their own work. 4. Students noticed their mistakes tended to be small mistakes rather than larger conceptual mistakes. 5. Students realized that showing their work matters when giving out partial credit (FINALLY) 6. Students developed their own understanding of what it means to weigh questions and why one might weigh some questions more than others. 7. Students realized that attempting a problem was better than skipping it if they were initially confused. 8. They recognized a pattern of their own errors while grading. By the way, this is the student who thinks he deserves a 32.5%.
I loved this activity. I loved including the students in my grading process. For 90% of my students this had a huge impact on the way they think about and approach homework. They have a better understanding of what goes into assigning a homework grade... and honestly they are harder than I ever have been on them! I'm going to rethink this exercise so that I can get all of my students to be impacted rather than just 90%.
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## Jen McAleerMS Math Department Head located in Massachusetts. I mainly work with LBDB students teaching them meaningful mathematical procedures through context. I also look to open students' eyes to the mathematical world around them ## Archives
January 2017
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