I developed a syllabus for new 1st semester communications course. It includes 40% for non-traditional (self-grading/contract grading) assessment of student writing and learning. I’ve had some skeptical looks when I’ve told colleagues this…
“Students can’t grade themselves.”
“They’re not ready for that in first semester.”
“Everyone will get an A – it’s too easy.”
I did have a moment of panic after submitting the syllabus. What if it was too ambitious? What if it’s too confusing for students? What if it is a crazy idea? Deep breaths. Because it isn’t something I just did on a whim. I’ve been thinking and reading and discussing this a lot over the summer, and on the heels of a successful non-grading point system with a 4th semester ethics class last year (where I received some of the most thoughtful, interesting, passionate assignments ever!)…well, this seemed like a starting point for what I envision learning to be.
I’ll still teach bias, fallacy, credible research, analysis, citation as per normal, but student work in first 7 weeks will be given feedback, no-grade, and I’ll ask students to submit reflections explaining and demonstrating how they meet objectives, and how they might improve. All the learning will be applied to an independent (but scaffolded) research project in the second half of the course.
Not gonna lie – I’m exited about this approach to the course. My growing concern is that grading writing is too punitive and subjective. It feels like students are waiting to be told what’s wrong rather than focusing on how to be better writers. I think this goes deeper into what it means to communicate ideas clearly and gives students agency. And because one of our new curriculum objectives is to use digital media to communicate, I am hoping to make it low stakes enough that students are willing to take more risks with their work.
I’ll let you know how it goes!
Links to people and articles that have helped me on my path
Cathy Davidson really got me started thinking about non-traditional assessment practices years ago, and Jessie Stommel and Hybrid Pedagogy have long been instrumental in helping me grow as an educator. I’m also so thankful for the St.Lawrence College colleagues I have who are always up for conversation about these things.
A few other links are below:
Across education, we’ve normalized absurd levels of grading, test-taking, and standardized assessment. The work of teaching shouldn’t be reduced to the mechanical act of grading. https://t.co/x4fMMS1bfi
— Jesse Stommel (@Jessifer) March 11, 2018
Thoughts on grading. And not. https://t.co/oFGG25oKVS
— M. Cheney (@finiteeyes) August 5, 2018
And just after I panicked about submitting, I saw this timely post.
— Amy Adele Hasinoff (@amyadele) August 22, 2018