Transparency as Authenticity

I have two classes of seniors this year.  1st period and 7th period.  Today I had two very different discussions with them regarding motivation, accountability, and the importance of being prompt.

First period has the classic issues of high school.  Class starts at 7:30 and by 7:28 I have between two and four students in class.  Many more pile in during the last two minutes and by the time the bell rings at 7:30 I have roughly half the class.  The remainder trickle in during the first thirtyminutes of the class.  To remedy this I will be implementing daily graded assignments that will be completed in the first 5-10 minutes of class.  This is a lot of work on my end and is definitely a top-down way of handling the attendence issues in the class.  For students who are regularly prompt they’ll have little trouble keeping up and will essentially be getting credit for showing up to class on time.  I have no problem with this remedy though it is inelegant and I would prefer a more bottom-up option.

During seventh period I had a similar discussion.  I discussed my issues with my first period class and applauded them for generally being on time and doing the work of the class.  I was caught off guard when students though my solution for first period was unfair. 

Their claim was that first period now has many more chances to earn credit in the class and as such it would be easier to earn a high grade.  By giving one period credit for making it to class and participating, but not the other one I was not being equitable.  I allowed their reasoning and we discussed options.  After brief discussion we decided that the best solution was to implement a regular participation grade for doing the work of the class.  The class was on board with this and so there will now be a weekly participation grade in seventh period to mirror the regular “warm up” assignments in first period.

My hope is that because they were part of the solution seventh period will be more invested in participating in class now.  In theory their ability to impact the grading in the class should help increase their buy-in and work to myadvantage to increase participation beyond it’s current level.  I plan to informally track the participation levels of seventh period and the attendence patterns in first period.  My hypothesis though is that the option that students worked with me to implement in seventh period will have a greater effect than my top-down approach in first period.  I’m now wishing I’d had the presence of mind to bring the topic to the students first before implementing a solution.

  1. Ben said:

    Good stuff. Have you done any reading in Standards Based Grading?

  2. I’ve read very little, so I know the basic gist of it. I have mixed feelings. On one side of it I like the idea that it measures what students “know” about an issue, but I think it has the tendency to focus too much on content and not enough on skills. (This can all be remedied through a balanced and potentially hybrid type approach though.)

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