Grade. Assess. Feedback


Ross Cooper asks a great question: Should the 4Cs be graded?

Should communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity be graded?

Remember that assessment is for learning, feedback for improvement, but grading is an evaluation of the moment.

Read Ross’s post and think about his ideas.

Rubrics can be created for anything, but are best created together with students, with a focus on what is proficient, rather than filling in the whole rubric with qualifiers. Just know what is proficient, to strive for, to exceed. Those criteria will change over the year as students’ starting points change and they nudge forward in their expertise.

What do students think critical thinking is?  or creativity?  Is there a common language from which learners can have a conversation?

For all the 4cs,  that’s the big question: is there a common language understood about the expectations? After having that conversation, students can identify where they use the skills, and how well they apply them. The criteria to me would be a living document, and may, if learning is truly the goal, be personalized for each student along a continuum. And the progress made certainly would indicate to the student his success and next goals.

But what about the more visible communication and collaboration skills?

Should we grade communication and collaboration? I think both should begin with a conversation and development of expectations with students. They should observe and assess where they are, and then choose improvement goals.

Communication and collaboration are part of the Common Core State Standards so learning targets of proficiency could develop from those.

However, in my real world of students, I’m thinking about success, and that means that the proficiency goals for students would be personalized. Some of my students are stretching towards college level goals, and some are still putting words together. If I want learning, then proficiency is a continuum, setting new goals together to reach the next level based on feedback on what was done well and where improvement is needed. Feedback from students themselves, peers, and the teacher. Feedback as conversation, whether in conversation face-to-face or in conversation on a collaborative document. But feedback is the key to learning.

Any “grade” must be fairly decided by criteria and conversation of achievement of that criteria. It must be a fair representation of the student’s progress, and that representation will change over time.

Ross shared a great truth by Rick Wormeli:

“Students can learn without grades, but they can’t learn without timely, descriptive, feedback.”  ~ Rick Wormeli

Because I think the learning will come from the doing, and the reflection on what helped and what didn’t will better guide next steps than a grade would, I would have that feedback conversation with kids during their projects and together decide what and if to grade – for all the 4cs– what and if to grade as a conversation.


Digital Portfolio Chapter 1

Matt Renwick Portfolio

Matt Renwick of Reading by Example has invited educators to a month-long book club study of his Digital Student Portfolios ebook. Read his overview intro post here and join the Google+ Community. It promises to be a great learning experience.

Chapter One: Purposes for Digital Portfolios

First, digital portfolios reinforce meaningful and purposeful learning: they represent the student’s choice in reflection and sharing to their audience as well as the school; they differentiate for the learners and their goals, and are part of the daily work of students as creators and designers of their own learning in collaboration with the teacher and peers. This picture tells more than any standardized test score, report card grade, or mark on a piece of work.

Technology provides a variety of tools through which students can explain their growth and their mastery. Technology allows students more options in the content, and can choose relevant topics; access to current events and historical documents online allow the curriculum to be relevant. By sharing on line, others can participate with feedback of celebration and of suggestions. Technology allows teacher and learner work to be comprehensive and personalized.

Thinking about the Digital — It’s about engagement, so what is the:


Available — for students to connect

Connective — bandwidth

Compatible — with needs of learner

Allocation — time, funding, training


Resources — why that tool?

Content — how connects to expected essential understandings

Integration — with curriculum, instruction, assessment to support learning

Agency — that students may self-assess and revise to improve


Visible — learning is sharable

Independence — able to self-assess and work towards potential

Inquiry — results in further thoughts and research

Empathy — engaging in conversations, feedback, and learning with others

How do we lead others? 

I appreciated the review by Matt Renwick of Michael Fullen’s book The Principal. I believe the in the concept of “learning leaders,” which the principal must be, because in my classroom, I must learn along side my students as the lead learner there. I cannot forget what it means to be a learner, and I will learn about and from my students. A principal should do the same with his/her staff. Read the article for other key points.

And what are we learning?

In my classroom, we learn for two purposes: the state requirements and the student’s interests and development as a whole person.

In our school, we learn for two purposes: the state/federal requirements and the practices, pedagogy, and essential principles that engage students and empower them to self-directed learning.

1M : The Prompt

An important rationale for a learning portfolio is “to provide a vehicle for reflection and exhibition.” Reflection means to look at the process and product of the work so far, to see what was done well and what needs improving. That would include the benefits of “make learners aware of their own growth” and “to accommodate for students’ individual needs.”
In the classroom I see this as formative assessment with criteria [perhaps a rubric or checklist], which grows and changes as the project continues and the student’s work is revised. I see perhaps an annotated list of links whereby students share where they are and where they need to go, and when they get there, they explain and share that link, if different. Peers and teachers can provide feedback.
At the end of the project, a final review of the process and product would be easier, and students then publish their final project with a link to their process of learning. I’m still considering the tools. Blogs would be the final published product, I think — but a website would also work. As a Google Apps school, a Google document or slides would work for the reflective pieces, and I’m pretty sure there’s a Chrome add-on or extension to add audio.
One writing strategy students learn is elaboration. We learned several elaboration strategies, and then students read a one-page story to identify the strategies used by quoting from the story and pasting the quote into a google form to explain what and why that quote exemplified the strategy. Then students visited the resulting spreadsheet and agreed/disagreed with their peers responses through comments. I was pleased they responded to each other, and in positive ways.
In this way, students helped each other learn, and I could see at a glance two different ways which students understood. This helped them apply the strategies in their own writing because they truly understood it. The students who did not understand all the strategies talked about it to each other while they were commenting. We then came together as a class to discuss the nuances of two strategies [details / description ] that overlapped. We would not have had that deep of a conversation with this process.

#sol15 After Nine


I missed the deadline for slice. Totally distracted providing feedback to students on their projects. Here’s one that’s published already: Life in Two Worlds. My students have a history and  two worlds in which to live; it’s not easy, and they will live their lives dealing with it. This project has helped them focus on what will help them succeed.

Then tonight as I work on the type of grading that takes time — not really grading, because it’s written feedback so students know what is done well and what needs improvement. I can personalize the feedback so that the standards fit what they need and the curriculum requires, guiding each student towards improvement and success.

Anyway, it’s late, and I’m still working, like many teachers do. Not during the day — because we’re teaching, but on our own time.  We live in three worlds — the one of hope with students, the one of family who waits, and the one of misconception where so many can tell us just what to do, but have no clue what “teacher” means.

Image: by Sheri Edwards

solFor more slices, visit the gracious hosts at Two Writing Teachers to read other “slices.”

Idea for Rubrics: Feedback #140WC #C4C15


Just wanted to share this great idea for rubrics and feedback from Jennifer Gonzalez.

Instead of a rubric that describes each level, simply write the section that is “proficient.”  On the left side, provide feedback for what is needed, and on the right side share feedback of what exceeded the standards. This explicit feedback provides more guidance than a rubric filled with words the student may not even read.

140wc_quotes_rubric_feedbacksre.015 I have been writing feedback on student work using the “I see / I suggest” format. This is simple and quick and allows the student to revise.

However, I like the idea of having the standard in the middle to be more specific for both student and myself, with the comments about “I see/ I suggest” on the sides [see above image]. This makes so much sense, doesn’t it? Often the student does excel in some places, meets the standard in others, and could use improvement in other areas of their work.This open rubric allows for precise and clear feedback on successes and concerns in student work. With these as a model, students can begin self-evaluating their own work as well. Jennifer’s rubric is a model for metacognitive reflection that students can learn from the feedback that is modeled, and it is a focus for learning from the feedback provided.

I developed the rubric below for my classroom based on Jennifer’s ideas:

Be sure to read the post by  Jennifer Gonzalez for more information.  I love this idea.

P.S. This comment is a part of the #C4C15 project. Find out more here:

WC: 205

Please join the 140WC challenge — see sidebar.


#140WC Messy



As I plan my lessons and projects with student interests in mind, as I encourage their collaboration and problem-solving, and as I teach the lessons from the standards to deepen their thinking, their process, and their products, I am always brought back to this: learning is messy.

Learning is messy, and recording and reporting that learning is even more messy. And the messiness is this: we are each unique — and how and what we learn is just as unique; it cannot be forced into a standard, a score, a grade. Each learning is more than the parts — it’s the wonder of the people creating it — the thinking, evaluating, organizing, designing, and working together to create their understanding to share with others.

Learning is a conversation filled with sharing, explaining, questioning, acknowledging, and suggestions. Learning is improving every day.

So how do we show that?

Lately, the work of Ron Berger has been tweeted, and, upon researching, I discovered he is the Butterfly Teacher, that marvelous focus on critique, feedback for learning, for improving. In this Education Week Blog Post, Ron Berger explains this messiness, this focus that is real learning. How do his students know their work demonstrates expectations? Models, standards, common criteria, and expected attributes of complexity, craftsmanship, and authenticity [this is a pdf of this excellent resource]. These guide analysis of both student work and teacher assignments, which means reflection, conversations, feedback, and revision.

Learning is continuous and reporting and grading is a reflection of the current status of learning.

I’ve been struggling with this; I always struggle with this. I searched my computer for “thoroughness,” and discovered this set of attributes I had developed years ago during my elementary, self-contained, project-based classroom for grades six, seven, and eight. This served as our guide towards excellence.





Looks like I’ve got some more reading and research to do to improve my work and to develop the attributes with my students for what learning projects look like when students have choices to develop their demonstration of learning about our topics, a process that is messy and engaging. — What is a quality project, something more than a number?

How do you establish the criteria for quality work within the messiness that is real learning?


WC: 368

Please join the #140 WC Challenge — see link at top right.

#140WC Grade gradus step


I’ve considered homework and feedback, and continue to do so. I’m also contemplating grades — from the Latin gradus – ‘step.’

Grades — a step, not a number or letter. But a step of and to what?

We want students to improve continuously, and we know feedback [self, peer, teacher] provides the best way towards improvement. With technology providing apps, textbooks, interaction, and connections, more personalized learning is possible. So students can step into and ahead according to more open learning targets with more input from themselves.

Input into their steps ahead.

One of my favorite blogs is TeachThought and today I stumbled upon Terry Heick’s post about alternatives to grades. There are several I will consider, but today, number six, one familiar to most teachers catches my interest:

“6 “So? So What? What Now?”

So: What did you “do”? Summarize details and big picture

So What? Why was this work important?

What now? What is the logical next step with this assignment, idea, or topic?”

To guide students in their reflection using the above questions [I like to use So, So What, What Next], we give FeedbackThe work of John Hattie shows that learning improves with feedback that shows “where to next.” Teachers and students collaborate on the next steps.

So, instead of grades, students with feedback from peers and teachers document what was done, why it was done, and what the next steps will be, be it revision or moving on. Students step: sometimes a little one as they revise, and sometimes a big step to a new project. But always the steps build a picture of student interests, goals, skills, and expectations for the next learning: steps of what is to steps of what’s next. I would think this would provide more insight into student learning and understanding than a letter or number. A portfolio, a digital curation, a conference. Imagine what that might look like. A blog? website? Pinterest? Symbaloo? Thinglink? Yes, the possibilities are endless, and so are the steps of student learning.

What do you think? Grades, or ???????


See also Mark Barnes  TED talk on feedback.

WC: 355

#140WC Assessment


This week, our School Improvement Planning Team discussed possible Common Core State Standard formative assessments that would provide the data needed to inform further instruction.

We discussed NWEA MAPS and the time it takes to test; digging into the data to inform instruction takes more time. We moved to Khan Academy, but that is not aligned to CCSS but does provide immediate feedback to students and teachers for where to go next. And there’s Edmodo Snapshot which, like Khan Academy, allows for teacher choice in assessment and immediate feedback for students and teachers; it is also aligned with the CCSS.

I”m also trying Actively Learn: immediate feedback aligned with CCSS because teachers choose the questions to embed. NewsLEA may also offer such an effective format.

Which brings us to a great post by Tracy Watanabe on Google Forms: assessments created by teachers to document CCSS progress.

Instruction is informed by the assessment of student work based on the objectives selected by the teacher. Students are informed by the constructive feedback [what’s on track; what’s still to learn] from peers and the teacher. Assessment data that is that close to instruction and immediate would provide best the road map for learning success.

What assessment tools does your district — or do you — include for your formative assessments?

Image Source: Formative Assessment License AttributionNoncommercial Some rights reserved by Ken Whytock

WC 227