No more numbers!

I have a New Year’s resolution: I am no longer going to use numbers when assessing student work.

Here’s the background…

I work at an International Baccalaureate school, so all of our summative assessment tasks are criterion-referenced; however, as with most rubrics, the levels of achievement are indicated with numbers, and each number has a descriptor indicating what the number means in terms of what the student was able to do in the context of that specific task. I spend a lot of time making sure that the rubrics are clear and that students understand what is expected of them. I use first-person phrasing to encourage students to self-assess before handing in their work. I format the rubrics with check-boxes so that I can check off the descriptors that correspond to the quality of their work and then assign the number that fits the chosen descriptors…After all that, you can imagine my frustration when students get their work back and ask, “why did I get a 4?”.

So, I’m going on strike: I am no longer going to give students number grades. I will check off, circle, highlight, write or otherwise indicate which descriptors in the rubric match their work. In order to find out how they did, students will have to read the rubric and any other comments I have made.

Let me clarify…

I still have to record numbers in order to determine students’ final grades, and that’s fine. I will record the numbers in my own grade book. If students ask, I will tell what those numbers are, but only after they have told me what they did well and what they need to do to improve.

My hope is that in 2014, I will have more conversations in which students tell me how they earned their grades and, consequently, take more ownership for their learning.

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6 thoughts on “No more numbers!

  1. I am curious to see how this goes in your classes. I teach in middle school and we always hand back feedback with “approaching, meeting or exceeding” expectations. I do find that this is much more useful in terms of promoting learning. Afterall with the wide range of marks (86-100% in BC) for an A some concepts can be missed and students can think they are fine but these missing concepts can cause trouble later. Parent education has been a huge piece of making this more successful and we have a ways to go.

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