Making Seen the Unseen

Published: 2016-04-01 12:23 |

Category: Grading | Tags: teaching

My grading practices have improved this year. I’m keeping better track of information, I’m using it more often, and I’m showing students – constantly – their progress in their learning. The notion that grades only report ability is buried deep and digging it out has taken a lot – a lot – of work.

Case in point: I’ve already written about keeping better track of quizzes given on standards in class. That spreadsheet, at the end of the chapter, looks like this:


This shows some interesting things:

  1. I can pinpoint sticking points on specific students much more accurately.
  2. Blank spots – missing quizzes – really hurts my ability to help. Same idea as GIGO…if I don’t have consistent information from students, I can’t help them as effectively.
  3. These quiz scores typically improve over time because older ideas set the foundation for new ideas. Yes, there is a dip in some cases, but I chalk that up to complexity rather than ability.

We just took the test and I found myself much less surprised than I used to be. (It pains me to even admit that I used to be surprised…growth…) I can also whip that tracking chart back out and pair it up with test scores.


Yellow is a set of questions related to a specific learning objective for the chapter. For the most part, the yellow boxes correlate with the tracking page. The conversation now centers on, “What mistakes am I still making?” rather than, “What do I have to do to get my grade up?”

It’s also great to ask a student if their test grade is a surprise and have them – even the most reluctant or disengaged – admit that no, it looks about right. Again, we can then focus on closing gaps in understanding and not point grubbing.

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