Friday, October 21, 2011

Grades, Failure, and Success

Yesterday was an interesting day. I'm behind in my feedback. (I'm always behind in my grading. I'm hoping that figuring out how to do voice feedback will speed up my process, if only to reduce the temptation to go back to multiple choice and other easily graded assessments.) And progress reports went out in the middle of the week, so several students asked me "What's my grade in this class?" I repeated my explanation that their grade doesn't exist until the end of the quarter. (Blame Kelly O'Shea.) "But I want to know if I'm failing." "You're not failing, unless you decide to stop learning." "So am I failing?" "You haven't met all the basic standards yet, but you have time." "So I'm failing."

The temptation to bang my head against a wall was fortunately fleeting. The depressing part is that I have the feeling from some of my students that they want me to tell them that they're failing, so that they have an excuse to stop struggling with difficult concepts. (And let's face it, Newtonian thinking is difficult: otherwise Aristotle and the other Greeks might have figured it out.)

Fortunately, several of these conversations were interrupted by other students saying "She doesn't give grades yet. Just chill." and words to that effect.

And, after my honors class took a quiz and gave themselves feedback a la Frank Noschese, one student asked, "What happens if we got it wrong?" "What happens when you get stuff wrong in this class?" "You try again?" "Exactly." Made my afternoon.


Alex said...

I run into this problem all the time with my kids, especially at the beginning of the year. They are so used to worrying about points and grades that they forget that the most important thing is learning, not scoring.

quantumprogress said...

"What happens when you get stuff wrong in this class?" "You try again?" "Exactly." Made my afternoon.

I love this quote. Sounds like you are building a wonderful atmosphere in your class.