I decided last week, after discussions with my co-teacher about how we wanted to help our students take more control of their learning and better adjust to the academic setting of high school, that two units into our Algebra I class we are switching to content-based grading.
I am nervous about this switch. I believe entirely that it is a better way of assessing students. It is less stressful that unit tests and quizzes. It requires students to remember and apply throughout the entire course instead of only for one unit. And it makes them aware of exactly what pieces of the curriculum they have mastered and what they need to work on. But I also know that this is a major change for both my students and their parents, and I hope that they are willing to be patient and try this out with us before they make up their minds!
I’m already assessing this way with my geometry students and I love it. They do too. I didn’t really believe Dan Meyer’s blog post when I decided to try this out last year, especially the parts about students liking assessment, but now I do. The students ask questions about the concepts they haven’t mastered yet. They ask me to put those types of questions on the assessments so that they can prove to me that they can do it. They get excited when they realize they’ve improved their grades and are constantly trying to improve them.
The other great thing about this is that it doesn’t require students to sit and focus for a whole block period on a test! I think that too will help many of my students. So we’re going to be introducing it on Monday to our students. They’ll have their first assessment on Thursday over six concepts from the first two units. And then we’ll go from there.
I am nervous about making such a big change after the school year has started, but I’m ready to help my students take more control over their learning.