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Tales of Horror and Non-Congruence. A Highly Personal Take on Grades and Homework. Steve Unruhe, [email protected] We need great teachers. More importantly, we need good schools . Horror Story #1: Una lecci ón de baile en Ecuador. Salsa for two left feet? 6-count? 8-count?

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tales of horror and non congruence

Tales of Horror and Non-Congruence

A Highly Personal Take


Grades and Homework

Steve Unruhe, [email protected]

we need great teachers
We need great teachers

More importantly,

we need good schools.

horror story 1 una lecci n de baile en ecuador
Horror Story #1: Una lección de baile en Ecuador
  • Salsa for two left feet?
  • 6-count? 8-count?
  • Dancing towards the exit
horror story 2 lily
Horror Story #2: Lily
  • Single mom, often working two jobs
  • Mom’s ex-partner intermittently involved
  • Unmotivated, easily frustrated, but not hostile
  • Frequently missed school
  • Failing math due to zeroes for homework and projects
part i grades
Part I: Grades
  • What are we trying to accomplish through our grading practices?
goal for grading a fair assessment of content knowledge
Goal for Grading: A fair assessment of content knowledge
  • Should student advance?
  • Into which course?
congruence problem 1
Congruence Problem #1
  • Do grades accurately reflect content knowledge?
  • Scenario - student does B work on three assignments; fails to turn in fourth assignment
horror story 3 how estelle failed lunch duty
Horror Story #3: How Estelle FailedLunch Duty
  • What if teachers were evaluated the way students are evaluated?
congruence problem 2
Congruence Problem #2
  • What does a student learn by repeating a course?
  • What does a student learn from a zero?
  • Why do we put a kid in another teacher’s classroom who already knows enough material to pass the class?
my grading practice
My grading practice
  • Use A-F scale, translated into numerical points (60-100)
  • Students fail for not passing assessments (tests, quizzes)
  • Students do NOT fail for missing work; they fail for not knowing content (or, more to the point, pass if they know enough content)
part ii homework
Part II: Homework
  • What are we trying to accomplish through our homework practice?
goals for homework
Goals for Homework
  • Practice
  • Learn new material
  • Learn responsibility
congruence problem 3 homework reality
Congruence Problem #3 - Homework Reality
  • Copied
  • Scribbled
  • Wrong
  • Time-consuming to grade
  • Give more, harder, homework
  • Grade all homework, every night
  • (Just kidding)
horror story 4
Horror Story #4
  • “Calculate the lateral area of an octagonal prism lying on its side…”
my homework practice
My homework practice
  • All homework problems have answers
  • Homework is practice
  • Homework counts for a grade only to help a student
data imperviousness
Data Imperviousness
  • Teachers (all humans?) resist data
  • Teachers (all humans?) learn by anecdote
  • Math teachers live for the counter-example (“What about…?)
  • Data “slides off” when it hits anecdotal counter-example
still here s the data
Still, here’s the data….
  • Retention: “In summary, the research indicates that grade retention provides limited or no academic/social advantages to students”(Retention: The Balanced View: Social Promotion & Retention; Prepared by Westchester Institute For Human Services Research. Available at http://www.sharingsuccess.org/code/socprom.html. Undated)
  • Homework: “No research has shown that homework is necessary to help students learn….Nor is there a shred of evidence to back up the folk wisdom that homework builds character, promotes self-discipline, or teaches good work habits.” (Homework: “The Tougher Standards Fad Hits Home” Alfie Kohn in Rethinking Schools, Vol 21, No.1; Fall 2006)
in search of congruence
In search of congruence
  • Teachers are heroes - we will go to almost any length to help a student succeed
  • Teachers are martyrs - and this is not a good idea
  • We must connect homework and grading practices to realistic goals