Two years ago I made the switch to ‘modes’ in my gradebook and descriptors instead of numbers. What a valuable change that was – for both me and my students. By using modes I can easily see strengths and where support is needed. Descriptors help kids understand what they can do and how they might improve. More importantly I discovered that everything I do can be classified in terms of mode – including assigned preparation work (you might call it homework) had nothing in it because I am either asking them to do something presentational or interpretive or, sometimes, interpersonal for class. What a relief to be rid of that category in ‘grading’…However…
In addition to changing my focus on assessment to modes – I wanted to change my students’ view on their role in the classroom. If their teacher is no longer ‘marking’ them but rather ‘assessing’ their skills then they also need to recognize that they have a role to play in that outcome. I must admit I got tired of hearing “I got an 80” and I want them to see (and say!) that they ‘earned’ a particular assessment and that they had a key role in doing so. It isn’t about ‘participation’ – too often viewed as a subjective evaluation of their role in class. No it is about more. Long discussions with colleagues ensued and one day my great French colleague mentioned that she had been talking to other teachers about students being ‘engaged in their learning’. Revelation. Why weren’t we looking at engagement in the process. As a teacher I can often see who is ‘engaged’ but now I wanted to ask students to be aware of their role too. This shift in focus is also the direct result of changes in my provincial curriculum and the focus on Core Competencies which are sets of intellectual, personal, and social and emotional proficiencies that all students need in order to engage in deep, lifelong learning. Central to this is student self-reflection on their own strengths, weaknesses and learning.
So “Learning Engagement” became the fourth gradebook category. For me it is worth 5% of their overall achievement – small enough to let the modes be the majority of what is assessed, but significant enough to play a role in a ‘grade’ – especially those on the line between two possible marks. And this is not just be my judgement. My students also have to examine, reflect and report on their engagement before reporting periods. They are able to, as it were, to hold themselves accountable for their role in learning. So twice a semester now we engage in this process. Students assess themselves based upon criteria that we have discussed as a class – they come up with the definition – including using the target language, positive influence in the class community, preparing for classes, choosing to respond to feedback and more (This years’ version of the form: engaged learner 2019 – of course the ultimate ‘evaluation’ is sensitive to every student, their unique needs and how they are ‘engaged’ to the class – ‘fully meeting’ looks different for every student. ). Then we conference about their view of their engagement. their current assessments and how the two may be linked (or not). When they set out a goal for the next term they often include aspects of engagement in these goals. Rarely do they ‘under’ or ‘over’ assess themselves and when they do it’s a healthy discussion to have. We then mutually decide on the final evaluation for the category. Please note that my neurodiverse students may receive an edited form more suitable to them – I want to stress this!.
Learning Engagement…it’s helping me to help them see the link between their participation in the learning process and their results..