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Theory of Assessment and Grading

Joel Everett
February 19th, 2015
Assessment has always been, and will forever be, an integral
part of any educational institution. In my opinion, grades are an
efficient and effective way to represent students progress, and show
what they have earned over the timespan of a course. The way in
which teachers measure student performance can be one of the most
important aspects of the profession due to its impact on the learner
and the progression of their education. In this paper, I will present my
views on assessment beginning with my philosophical beliefs on why
grades are important, while also touching on other, more specific
aspects of grading and student measurement such as summative and
formative assessment, late assignments, re-tests and zeroes. For the
purpose of clarity and understanding, I am writing this paper from the
point of view of a secondary math or science teacher.
Whether or not we want to acknowledge it, as high school
teachers we are ultimately preparing our students for learning beyond
high school, whether that means college, university or some other
institution. In saying that, it is certainly understood that not all
students will go on to post-secondary education, but we as teachers
should be setting our students up for that possibility. Therefore, until
these institutions change the way in which they assess students, it is
necessary for high school teachers to continue to give grades during
public school education. Alfie Kohn argues that teachers should not do
bad things to kids, because people will do bad things to them later in
life, but I do not necessarily see it in the same light. I look at it as
preparing or conditioning students to be ready for what is to come. If
we were to not give grades to students and just give constructive
feedback on everything they did in school, how would they respond to
getting grades in university or college? Kohn argues that grades
diminish student interest in material, create a desire for the easiest
task possible and also reduce quality of thinking (Kohn, 2011). All of
these statements have some merit because sometimes grades do
diminish the students overall view of education, but with standardized
testing and the university education system in its current structure,
grading and summative assessment are crucial to the overall learning
experience of children in public schools. If these systems were to ever
change, perhaps public schooling could take a more feedback-based
approach to assessment and evaluation. That being said, we must
continue to use number and letter grades with students work.
On the topic of grades and how they come to be, I firmly believe
that the way in which a teacher will formulate student grades needs to

be explicitly stated at the beginning of every course and also needs to

be re-iterated throughout the course. Much like a university professor
would, a high school teacher should also break down the weighting of
each assessment method and unit on the syllabus before the class
begins. This gives students a clear idea of where their mark will come
from and will also save any confusion when it comes to reporting time.
Secondary math and science students should have about 30-40% of
their mark come from tests and exams because of the factual nature of
these courses. Because these courses are so factual and black and
white in nature, it is easy to assess using simple question and answer
methods. Students should also be assessed on their willingness to
participate and engage in classroom sessions because they are crucial
to the learning process.
Assignments, homework, presentations and labs should also be
apart of their overall mark in most cases because these types of
assessment help strengthen several areas of learning such as work
ethic, communication, teamwork, public speaking and following
directions. I believe tests and summative assessment should only
make up about a third of a students overall grade because the process
of getting to the finish line is just as important as the final result.
Frequent formative assessment such as: exit slips, assignments and
observation will allow me, as a teacher, so see where the student is
heading and how they need to adjust in order to get to a final grade
that represents appropriate learning of the prescribed material. My
belief in this area comes from my experience learning about motor
control and the difference between knowledge of performance and
knowledge of results. From my experience, knowledge of performance
is much more important because it eliminates chance and focuses on
smaller details. If we as teachers get invested in the intricate details of
our students learning, they will be better off in the long run because
they are less likely to just try and learn the whole concept in the few
days before a test or exam. If we only focused on the results of these
exams, the way in which we got there would become irrelevant.
In my classes, late assignments and projects will be penalized as
long as department, school and district guidelines allow it. My standing
on this contentious issue comes from my philosophy that we are
teaching students; not just knowledge. Along with delivering the
necessary information in given subjects, we need to equip the children
that go through the education system with necessary tools and skills
that will help them succeed in life after education. Doing things late is
something that is not tolerated well in society and is a practice I do not
believe should be tolerated in a classroom. Therefore, marks should be
taken off for late submissions. I understand that many people such as
Fisher, Frey and Pumpian, believe that students should be graded on

their ability to perform; not their ability to practice. This would

contradict my theory on late submissions for assignments or
homework (aka practice), but I think it is necessary for students to
learn how to do their work on time and take the consequences that
come along with it.
My theory on re-tests has somewhat changed upon research on
the subject. I used to believe that students should only be given one
chance to perform unit tests, in order to assess their knowledge on the
subject at hand. Research done by Myron Dueck changed my viewpoint
on this concept. Allowing students to perform at least one re-test on a
test they did poorly on would take some pressure off of them as they
perform the test the first time. There are also methods such as
replacing the worst test mark with an assignment mark, or eliminating
one test altogether. I would consider and likely implement strategies
such as this, as a teacher. I will always use caution when allowing
these practices to be used because students will likely attempt to take
advantage of them. For example, I believe that zero can be an option
for un-submitted work and tests that are not completed. If a student
does not attempt to do the work, then their mark should reflect their
effort level, which is zero. In short, I will never allow a re-test or a re-do
for something that was not completed the first time.
My ultimate goal as a teacher is to have a positive impact on my
students lives. Not only do I want to be an effective teacher of content
knowledge but I also hope that my students learn something from me
that will help them become great citizens. I think that the way in which
I approach assessment and grading will have a positive impact on how
students will become better contributors to society because of my
focus on not only curriculum delivery, but life-skill teaching.
Dueck, M. (2011). How I Broke My Own Rule and Learned to Give ReTests. Educational Leadership 72-75.
Fisher, D., Frey, N. & Pumpian, I. (2011). No Penalties for Practice.
Educational Leadership 46-51.
Kohn, A. (2011). The Case Against Grades. Educational Leadership
69(3), 28-33.