Grading and Formative Assessment: Should Teachers Grade Everything?
Formative assessment is a collection of methods that teachers use for evaluating students on an ongoing basis. With this type of evaluation, teachers are not solely focused on students’ comprehension, which is the case with the testing method. Formative assessment also encompasses the needs of the students, as well as the academic progress they make during a lecture, unit, or an entire course. This is a very useful method that enables teachers to realize where their students have gaps in the knowledge. They realize what skills their students are struggling with, so they can adjust their instructions in a way that delivers better results. Formative assessment is a valuable part of a teacher’s approach since it focuses on discovering students’ needs, strengths, and weaknesses. The only problem is: should formative assessment be graded? There is an ongoing debate on this issue, so let’s sum it up to make it clearer.
Many teachers confuse formative assessment and grading. Although these two concepts are related, they are not synonyms. Teachers grade the assessment, and the assessments give insight into the students’ achievements. Some teachers are proponents to the attitude that everything should be graded. Others believe that the whole point of formative assessment is getting feedback from the students, so it loses its whole point when students are being intimidated by the grades.
Reasons to Grade Formative Assessment
This is the most important argument of proponents for grading: the grades give structure and logic to the assessment process. Teachers should write descriptive explanations about students’ comprehension, but there is no way to analyze the achievements of the class as a whole if they don’t assess the achievements with grades. Grades are not as scary as some people perceive them to be. Formative assessment is different from summative assessment, which is used for evaluation of the student at the end of the instructional unit through tests and other methods. Summative assessments are stressful because the students know they determine the final grade. Formative assessment, on the other hand, reduces the pressure because it is gradual. When this type of grading influences the final grade, the students don’t feel the stress of summative assessments.
Dr. William S. Jepsen with 10 years of the teaching experience says, that progressive grades can motivate the students to try harder, since they have a smaller volume of material to study, and the teachers can easily notice and fix the gaps in knowledge.
Reasons Not to Grade Formative Assessment
When this type of assessment is linked to grading, it can create lots of confusion not only for the teachers but for the students as well. It’s okay to grade the knowledge and comprehension of students through gradual formative assessment in the form of quizzes, but teachers should keep in mind that this method is all about helping their students to learn, not for evaluating their knowledge. Students should feel free to give their feedback. They should ask questions about the things they don’t understand without being worried they would get a bad grade because they don’t know as much as the rest of the class. Even when the grading is progressive, the value of the feedback is lost under the pressure of points and marks. Teachers definitely need to clarify students’ achievements through points on the evaluations, but those marks should not influence the final grade. Formative assessment is meant for “diagnosing” students’ strengths and weaknesses, so the teachers will know what aspects of the material they should pay more attention to. When they notice that their students have troubles with certain concepts, they will provide more instructions that would fill in the gaps before the final grading process approaches. More posts about grading here
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