Hacking Report Cards: The Whys and Hows of Student Self-Grading

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As long as we’re in a traditional grades world and report cards are issued throughout the school year, we must use workarounds, in order to operate a no-grades classroom with fidelity.

So, when report card time arrives, the best approach is student self-grading.

In this episode of the Hack Learning podcast, Mark Barnes provides ways that teachers can meet report card mandates, while maintaining a no-grades classroom.

We need to partner with our learners to create an environment where tracking progress and evaluating that process is transparent. It’s time to pass the baton to the students and watch in amazement as they skillfully share what they have learned. — Starr Sackstein, Hacking Assessment: 10 Ways to Go Gradeless in a Traditional Grades School

5 Strategies for Successful Student Self-Grading

1 – Explain what self-grading is and why we do it

The what is easy: Students decide what mark or grade goes on a report card. When report card time rolls around, teachers simply ask students, “What grade should we put on your report card?” The why isn’t too complicated, but it is a bit philosophical, so this conversation may take a little longer and should be revisited often.

2 – Help students develop self-grading tools

Create tools that encourages students to reflect on what they’ve done during a grading period and to evaluate evidence of learning.

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3 – Conduct individual conferences, in which the student explains what grade he/she should receive

About one week prior to the end of a marking period, sit down with each student and reflect on learning. Ask students what they’ve done, how they did it, and what they learned. Ask if they feel that they mastered the concepts and skills, based on the information that was provided.

4 – Avoid arguments about the grade

If students “inflate” their grade, it’s okay to ask them what evidence supports their decisions, but don’t argue about it. In the end, it’s important to give the grade the student wants, or you undermine your philosophy that grades aren’t important.

5 – Tell parents about the process

Whenever you have the chance, explain to parents how a no-grades classroom functions, including student self-grading. Tell them that students will reflect at the end of a marking period and ultimately will assign their own report card grade. If you emphasize the value of feedback and conversation about learning over misleading labels, parents will appreciate this.

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