Sunday, October 12, 2008

Understanding Weighted Grades

Many of my students still don't get the idea of weighted grading (and, let's face it, neither do some of the staff members). I want them to understand that the skills tests are the biggest part of their grade, and thus very important, but that the other parts of their grade are important too. So, in preparation for the upcoming midterm, I made a little visual presentation to help them see how it all fits together. I think it helped. This show is dedicated to all the Renees, Toms, and Michelles out there.

Weighted Grading Keynote


Anonymous said...

Homework 10%?

I always wonder about other math teachers' grading schemes. When I was a student, I learned by keeping half an ear open during class, and doing examples. I liked when homework counted 0. Really. I don't know that I ever did it.

But today, I want my students doing homework. I want them to reinforce what they learned in class, and I want them to discover that their "I got it!" was a little too quick, and that they still have a question or two.

And I get the homework. I make the benefit large enough, and the cost of not doing it great enough... Part of that is overweighting in the grade (I give 30% in total, divided between a project for 10% and daily assignments for 20%). Part of that is drawing a test question or two directly from the written assignments. Part is from making the assignments easy enough that there really is not a "this is too hard" excuse - or, for the kids who can do more, making the assignments harder, but without repetitive drill type questions. Part is making credit available on a daily basis for those with completed assignments...

And so I saw your graph/conversion explanation (had them on the borad myself, just last week) and was wondering how you arrived at 10-50-40.


Dan Wekselgreene said...

Well, it's been a process of evolution over the years. I think I did start with homework around 30% when I first began teaching Algebra 1. I do highly value homework for the same reasons you mention, but we have the persistent problem of copying. When students turn in homework, you can never be sure if they really worked on it alone, or if the help they received was appropriate. In those first years, I think we ended up passing too many students on to the next level who just squeaked by with every homework complete, and low scores on quizzes and tests. So I've reduced the relative worth of homework, because I don't want it to be something that can push a student who doesn't really know the material into the passing range.

We do a full court press on homework at DCP, so lowering the value doesn't matter all that much. Students' advisors regularly check in with them, and call them on missing assignments. They also call families when too many homeworks are missed. Students also have positive incentive to do their homework, as enough complete at the end of the grading period earns them a free-dress pass (we have a uniform).

At the beginning of each class, I put up the answers and they grade their own work. I walk around and write down their scores as they work on the warm-up problems. Any incorrect problems can be redone for the next lesson to raise the score to full credit. Most of them are honest with their grading, though some are not. Because the weight is so low, I don't have to worry about it all that much.

As for the rest of the grades, I wanted to make it such that most of the points were recoverable, but not all. This way, any student who works their butt off should learn the material and be able to pass. Having the skills tests worth so much and be re-takeable provides great opportunity and incentive to learn the material.

With 60% of the points recoverable, a student who does all their work and retakes skills tests till they get 100% only needs to earn a 25% average on the comprehensive exams and the final to pass with a C-. This means that I have a class that is passable by students who work hard, but to get an A, they must master not only the basics, but also the higher order material that is on these exams.

So that's the general idea. Of course, this is the first time I am trying this, so I can't say how it will work out. But I am very pleased with the skills tests so far. Each week, I have dozens of kids retaking tests with me after school, or during their tutorial period. And they love to see their grade jump from a C to a B when they go from a 3/6 to a 6/6, for example. This instant gratification provides them with the motivation to keep coming in and retaking tests when they didn't get it the first time.

Dan Wekselgreene said...

Just in case I wasn't clear: midterms and finals can't be retaken. This allows me to help students prepare for traditional exams that they will likely have in college.

Anonymous said...

I may have told you before, but it's probably worth sharing again. At the beginning of each class, students put up homework, and they get a little tick mark that I review when I am calculating participation grades.

So, they can put up any question, correct or not, complete or not - and we go over whatever they put up. Homework questions may become quiz or test questions.

And then I check for completeness. That is all. It is up to them to correct their homework, based on the review, and to make certain that what they are not sure of goes up for review.

I really on all of the benefits: easy credit for going to the board. Easy to complete the assignment (do what you can, copy the rest if need be). Benefit on tests and quizzes. And points toward the grade.

It becomes silly not to do it.

And I get kids practice regularly outside of class, which means I get higher test grades, more than making up for the point "give away" that I engage in.

Winners all around.