It's been a while since I last blogged on the #Teach2Teach questions that Karen Tharrington's NCSU students sent me about teaching world language, but they graduated this weekend, so I am dedicating this week to them!
The fourth question in the #Teach2Teach installments is timely because a lot of the buzz in #langchat has been all about grading, mindset, feedback and creating an classroom environment focused on learning rather than the numbers and letters on report cards.
This time it was Karen's student Megan who asked the question. She wants to know...
"How do you find the balance between grading for content and grading for accuracy/grammar?"
My answer starts with this: we all struggle to keep our focus on those things, but the best way to keep your evaluation compass directed at true north (or your standards) while giving students incentives that motivate them to be better each time is to use quality rubrics that include criteria and verbiage that do the work for you.
Evaluating students without set rubrics is like sailing without a rudder or sails on your boat. You have no direction or control of your route. You are on the water at the mercy of the sea and all the elements because you are constantly changing the criteria or expectations. Another problem with having no set rubrics to evaluate student performances with is that you could catch yourself grading things that are not really connected to what your outcomes are. Accuracy, since you mentioned it in your question, is one of those things we have to be very careful with because according to the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines all of the students we will probably be in charge of teaching will be unable to perform without making mistakes. The danger then, in creating rubrics for each performance, is that we will lose sight of what they can do and start writing in criteria for the things that frustrate us about their inaccuracies.
Fortunately, in my district a set panel of rubrics has been developed for these types of assessments: Interpersonal Speaking, Presentational Speaking and Presentational Writing. The rubrics are leveled with one group serving for levels 1, 2 and 2 Honors along with a sliding scale that adjusts for each level, and another group of rubrics for levels 3, 3 Honors and level 4 with a sliding scale that adjust for those levels. You can check out the Plano ISD rubric panel by clicking on the links below.
Other world language teachers use rubrics from different places. Greg Duncan has collected and shared proficiency based rubrics developed by Jefferson County World Language and FLENJ (Foreign Language Educators of New Jersey) along with a conversion tool that you can access by clicking this link. While Laura Sexton (@sraspanglish) uses and swears by the AAPPL Scores directly from ACTFL.org and you can get her take on these tools by reading her post on AAPPL Measures and IPAs. Those are just a few examples, but the trend is that more and more programs are either developing or adopting a standard set of rubrics that their teachers or teams always use to ensure the same standards from classroom to classroom.
Another powerful pair of strategies to consider, especially now that you are headed to the classroom very soon, is pre-assessment norming and post-assessment norming. These really only work if you teach on a campus with more than one teacher of the same language and level, but pre-assessment norming is a great exercise for any teacher even if working alone. On my campus their are 5 Spanish teachers who teach similar levels, so before we even start a unit of instruction or head into an important assessment we do pre-assessment norming during which we look over the assessment documents and analyze the tasks the students will be asked to perform. We then make a list of the skills, content, etc. that the students will need to meet expectations on the assessment. We pull together and share an instructional guide that we use to guide our planning throughout the course of the unit. This planning guide also helps us identify any gaps in our curriculum so that we can supplement it. You can see an example by clicking the link below. Then, as we near the assessment day, we meet again to evaluate where we think our students are so that we can preemptively troubleshoot any areas of instruction that need more attention or adjust our thinking on what our expectations should be. After giving the assessment we then meet to do the post-assessment norming. This is a time when we meet in a room together having brought our students writings or speaking samples. We then exchange samples and practice scoring them based upon the expectations we outlined earlier before starting the unit. We then compare the results of our grading to calibrate our thinking so that we can walk away from the meeting and grade with as much of a like mind as possible. When you are on a team of teachers, these are powerful tools.
Example Instructional Plan Based on Pre-Assessment Norming
Megan, your question was a good one and I hope that this gives you something that you can take and employ in your classroom this year!
Congratulations on your graduation and welcome to the world language teaching club!
Happy Coaching to you!
(n.) A special place where we remember that students are humans that need to feel loved and important, where their achievements are celebrated every day and where we learn Spanish along the way!
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