List of Questions

What Matters: Big Questions

How Things Are: Physical Spaces

The Way Things Go: In-Class Structures

All Things Graded: Assessment & Grading System

People in the Room: Norms & Classroom Conduct

When Things Fall Apart: The What-If List



One Response to List of Questions

  1. As a first-year teacher as well, I’m incredibly excited by the list of questions I see on this site – they mirror my own thoughts about the nitty-gritty details of a classroom that aren’t necessarily covered in a teacher preparation program and don’t necessarily have an end-all, be-all right answer.

    I was hoping to expand on the questions in the ‘All Things Graded’ section. In my own observations and experiences, I’ve noticed that the way in which assignments are weighted and graded tends to reflect a philosophy (or lack thereof) about grades and how they reflect the mastery of material versus the necessary practice and inevitable mistakes that students will make. Which assignments are used for students to practice their skills (homework? formative in-class assessments?) and how are these graded (completeness? correctness? how much feedback do we give?). Do you have a philosophy about the types of assignments students should complete as they master material, versus the types of assignments students should complete to demonstrate mastery? Does that philosophy dictate your policy on late work? Does that philosophy dictate when you let students use notes (if at all)? Do you provide any detailed feedback on assignments – and, if so, how do you guarantee students will look at it and take it seriously? How does your class go over tests – do you allow corrections? Is it used as a further learning opportunity? What do you do if the majority of the class fails a test unexpectedly? Do you have some sort of structure at the end of the semester to allow students to improve earlier tests scores, demonstrating mastery even if at a much later date?

    I’m especially interested in the role of homework within a classroom. In talking to other teachers, there seem to be two philosophies: homework is a place for students to practice and make mistakes – as such, it is graded for completeness, collected sporadically, and weighted relatively low in comparison to quizzes and tests. Or, homework is a place for mastery – as such, it is graded for correctness with feedback given, it may be turned in late with a reduced penalty or the assignment may be corrected and turned in at a later date (in other words, continuing to try and master the material is acceptable and built into the system), and is weighted closer to (although probably still less) than quizzes. If you prescribe to the latter philosophy, when do you allow your students to make mistakes? If you prescribe to the former, how do you make sure students will take the homework seriously and continue to practice at home?

    Anyway – these are thoughts I’ve had and surveys I’ve been taking of teachers I respect. Have you thought about assignments and grading scales in terms of practice versus mastery? Have you thought about the repercussions of your grading system on your students or on the amount of time you will spend out of class grading these assignments? I’ve seen classes where a lack of attention to these questions led to the complete dismantling of moral and management in the classroom (a class that doesn’t care about grades doesn’t care about content), so I’m curious if others have thought of or battled with these issues…

    Sorry for the long post…

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