news & tips
A collection of helpful articles on teachers and teaching
Find Your Best Grading Method: From Student-Designed Rubrics to Formative Assessments
Students, teachers, and parents are increasingly resistant to standardized testing, multiple-choice tests, and assessments focused on recall over critical thinking. Gone are the days of designated, unchanging curriculum and teachers as the “sage on the stage.” The current era’s student-centric focus means that curriculum should be checked regularly against student needs and learning.
3 grading methods to consider: Student-created rubrics, informal assessment, and formative assessments that inform instruction
This modern pedagogy accounts for where students are rather than where textbooks expect them to be. The regular use of both formal and informal assessment is an excellent tool for tweaking classroom curriculum to adjust to student needs and ensure continued improvement. Here are three options educators should consider.
1. Student-created rubrics
Involving students in the process of formal assessment design through creating grading rubrics can be extraordinarily helpful in ensuring deeper learning. According to Teachers First, students engaged in rubric creation have a “better understanding of the standards, gradations, and expectations of an assignment.” When students are invested in the process of rubric creation, they reflect deeply on the expectations for the assignment. This action reinforces student learning.
To create rubrics with students, Teachers First suggests first helping them become familiar with the design and setup of rubrics by looking at existing grading documents. As students begin to understand the important characteristics of assignments and their instructor’s expectations, they can create their own grading criteria.
Once students have written a rubric for an assignment, posting the rubric helps them to have a visible reminder of their grading expectations. Involvement in the creation process and continued visibility of the rubric ensure that students are familiar with teacher expectations and are aware of the benchmarks set forth in an assignment.
2. Informal assessments: Exit slips and the “stoplight” method
Informal assessments have become a popular method of tracking students’ progress. Some instructors implement formative assessments using short, end-of-lesson “exit slips” to check in on student learning. These brief tests allow for early detection of questions or confusion and can help engage introverted students and others who might be unlikely to ask for help before a formal assessment.
Exit slips ask students to answer a problem or give an example of their learning from the day. This allows teachers to make quick adjustments to the curriculum, clarify sections many students struggled with, and intervene on at-risk students long before an end-of-unit assessment would indicate problems.
Teachers have the added plus of being able to get creative with informal assessments. High school English teacher Sarah Brown Wessling uses an end-of-class “stoplight” method. Her students write on a sticky note to indicate one of three things: what they learned, what they have questions about, or what stopped their learning. Wessling can then quickly adapt the next day’s lesson to meet her students’ needs.
3. Anatomy of an effective formative assessment
Whether done formally or informally, The National Council for Teachers of English encourages instructors to recognize the inherent qualities of good formative assessments. The best assessments are student-focused and answer teachers’ concerns about student learning. They are also integrated into the classroom and the learning process rather than intruding into the educational flow. In essence, an effective assessment is flexible and reflective, created and used in a way that provides feedback to both instructor and student.
Students and teachers both have long expressed frustration with testing as an intrusive event that interrupts rather than aids student learning, but by creating effective formative assessments, educators can stop worrying about teaching to the intrusive test and begin using assessment to ensure continued growth.
Monica Fuglei is a graduate of the University of Nebraska in Omaha and a current adjunct faculty member of Arapahoe Community College in Colorado, where she teaches composition and creative writing.