First Unit Gradeless in 12U Chem, Part 2

OK, so it has been about a week since the last brain dump…time for another. Lots of turkey between then and now. πŸ™‚ I hope everyone had a restful weekend.

Last time, I left off explaining that my grade 12 students and I were going to come to a consensus about a grade that represents their learning in the first chemistry unit. For this to happen, the students and I each had some homework to do first:

  • Students completed a self-assessment based on the overall learning goals for the unit, assigning themselves a level (1-4) for each item. After that, they had the option of assigning themselves a grade or grade range) that they felt represented their learning so far.
  • Using my data (from product, conversation, and observation) I assigned each student a grade range based on their progress (75-80, 80-85, etc.)

Students submitted their self-assessments to me so that I had time to read their comments. The majority of students in my two classes have submitted their self-assessments for the first unit. I will say that I was relieved that about 80% of the self-assessments were in agreement with my grade assessment. I had been nervous about this process, anticipating that I might have some debates on my hands. It turns out there was little need to worry about this.

I have chosen a couple of examples from the student self-assessments to share to illustrate points of interest.

This student (a high achiever) knows that they made an uncharacteristic (small) error on their test, and used their self assessment to tell me that they felt it did not represent what they had learned and advocate for another opportunity to show what they know. I liked the self-advocacy here. I am open to providing more opportunities for students, but need to make sure things remain manageable for me (time wise) and them (with each passing day we are more removed from this content, and I don’t like the thought of them spending time preparing for another opportunity when they have new content in all of their classes every day).

This student is a good example of someone who has truly reflected on each of the learning goals. If you can read the text (I know you’re all pros at deciphering students’ writing!) you will see that she knows her strengths and needs. I agreed completely with her assessment of progress.
In this example, the student and I were much less in agreement. We had a longer conversation about each of these items – you can see that the student both over- and under-estimated their demonstration of learning. This student estimated their grade at about 65% while I had determined that they were in a range of about 70-75%. Certainly a more interesting case than the previous examples. This tells me that this student needs more support using the feedback and success criteria to self-evaluate.

This next example was the best one to illustrate student over-estimation; we were 10% off in our suggested grades in this case. I will say that this student does a much better job expressing themselves orally than on paper, and the levels I recorded reflect some conversations we had during lab activities. I agree with the student that their understanding is probably better represented by a higher grade, and am open to adjusting the evaluation if I have more evidence to support the adjustment. The issue we are running into is that we are in the thick of our next unit, and most of my conversations with students are about new ideas and concepts rather than things we worked on two weeks ago. I’ve been thinking about how to best address this; if this student wants to demonstrate their understanding again/differently we most likely need to be able to find time together outside of class time. Not a big issue, but if I imagine 50 students wanting to do so, the idea feels overwhelming. Something to think about.

And, finally, evidence that some students are taking this VERY seriously. Check out this detailed analysis…I had 3 – 5 with this level of depth – students telling me the whole story of their learning. I had a conversation with this student and got the sense that this level of depth was what they felt was required to justify the levels they assigned. I can understand their motivation to make a strong case for themselves, but if you read this one you’ll see that the student has regurgitated some of their understanding here, rather than simply focus on their specific strengths and needs. Another indication that more guidance may be required to stay focused in the self-evaluation process.

OK, that’s it for now. Next I plan to write about the next cycle and the adjustments I can make to improve the process.

10 thoughts on “First Unit Gradeless in 12U Chem, Part 2

  1. Hi Amy – thanks so much for sharing your journey in ttog! I find this fascinating to read. I think you're right in that this is a big learning curve for students too – not only assessing their own understanding, but advocating for their level of understanding (and not just re-stating what they learned). I wonder how many would struggle with the interpretation (or reading) of the expectation/learning goal in order to complete this independently? That's something I would think about especially for a younger class. Keep sharing the awesome things you're doing! πŸ™‚


  2. Thanks, Heather! So far, I've only done this with my grade 12s. My grade 9s also haven't had any grades yet, and I am planning to do more to scaffold the process for them. I think we might spend a whole class period working on self assessment next week, and I'll be sure to share how it goes. Round 2 for the 12s is coming, and I'm thinking about having them give feedback on some anonymous self-assessments to help refine their understanding of what it should look like. Maybe I can use some grade 12 examples to help guide my 9s too. πŸ™‚


  3. Another great reflection Amy.
    When students struggle with a process, I wonder about what opportunities they have had to try it in the past and then what the next step is for them. I would be surprised if your students have had the opportunity to reflect on their learning and meaningfully self assess in this way before. I know that final grades are important to students and families (especially those looking for admission to post-secondary opportunities) but maybe the struggle of this process is more important than the final outcome as it will develop self-advocacy and a greater appreciation for continuous learning.


  4. Thank you for sharing your insights once again. It is so interesting to see the student responses, and your reflections highlight some real and practical challenges related to time. I wondered how students responded to having to fill in their self assessments, especially if this degree of reflection is not something they have been often asked to engage in. I also was wondering if they have had to point out or select any evidence to support their assessment yet. I so look forward to hearing more as your journey progresses!


  5. Thanks for these examples, Amy. I also found that students' self-assessment of their level is similar to my assessment. Last year, there were a few high level 4 students who are very aware of what they do not know, or are able to do, and therefore they gave themselves a lower grade than I did. And very few students over-estimated their grade or seemed to be trying to slip through with a higher grade. I wonder if you have considered getting the students to provide artifacts that show their learning–to justify their grade estimates. That is what I did with portfolios and am working on this semester using Sesame. I am also reading Starr Sackstein's book “Teaching Students to Self-Assess.” (It's a nice small book!) There are some great ideas there to scaffold the skills needed to become better at reflection and self-assessment.


  6. Thanks, Pat. We have been discussing how the ability to self-assess can be particularly useful in post-secondary when you are sometimes in very large classes with relatively little feedback. I will be thrilled if my students come away from this class with some of the soft skills that will help them as learners next year.


  7. Thanks Shannon. My students did not seem bothered by having to do their self-assessments, though some of them balked at providing a numeric grade. The process of looking at overall performance on learning goals and coming up with a number is as new to them as it is to me and has required some serious thought from all of us. Particularly, the question of what 'level 4' looks like is tricky…if level 4 implies demonstrating something 'consistently' or 'very effectively' or 'thoroughly,' how does that look in a classroom where mastery is the goal for everyone?
    Regarding selecting evidence of achievement, many student sis take the time to select specific points of evidence from their assessments while others did not. This week we will be taking time in class to discuss the last round of self assessments and look at ways of helping one another select specific evidence of understanding. Interestingly, students are extremely hesitant to use conversations as evidence; I think that if I can improve my documentation of conversations and share that information with students, they would feel more license to use this as evidence (documented = somehow more 'real').


  8. Thanks, Susan! I have Starr's book as well – read it sometime last year but it was out of context and I should revisit it now that I am more aware of my students' needs. I am thinking every day about how to improve the process for students. As I said in my reply to Shannon, some of the students seemed to find specific evidence and others did not; this process was not particularly well scaffolded (not having done it previously I had nothing to compare it to and little idea what to expect). I like the idea of something like Sesame that would force students to submit concrete, specific evidence. This is something I will definitely explore in the third cycle. Thank you so much for your suggestions and support!


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