Monday, December 30, 2013

Life Lessons about Extra Credit & Giving Points

Why I said "no" to giving a percent in order to bump a grade and what I did instead....

"The Middle" airs on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. EST on ABC.

ABC's The Middle, Season 5, Episode 6 hits the nail on the head depicting college freshmen struggles with trying to pass classes.  As we know the struggles really begin well before college.  All too often we see high school students at the end of the semester wanting extra credit or hoping to turn in just a few more assignments to raise their grades.  It is how we, as educators, choose to respond to students in these circumstances that will define how they will handle similar situations as adults.

If you follow me on Twitter (@differNtiated4u) or read any of my now you know that I am on a mission to transform point chasers to knowledge seekers.  Therefore, I do not allow extra credit or busy work for students to raise their grades.  I don't allow this because I do not believe this is an accurate reflection of student understanding.  At the same time, we must keep in mind that we teach children; children who, in the words of Axl, will one day become "unsupervised" adults.  For high school students, we are reminded daily that although their bodies are bigger, they still have some growing to do.  Therefore, it is imperative educators provide gradual release of responsibilities and repeated opportunities for growth.  

Yes, you read that right, I said "repeated opportunities."  How easily we forget that the prefrontal lobes of the brain (where rationale decision making and emotions occur) do not fully develop until one reaches their 20's. Gargi Taluker wrote an article for Posit Science's website Brain Connections titled "Decision-making is a still a Work in Progress for Teenagers" (2013).  The article points out that "teenagers need order to make rationale decisions" and we "can help this process along through open communication and clear boundaries." 

In a previous post of mine (click HERE), I mentioned a student that wanted me to "give" him a percent in order to raise his grade to a B for the semester.  I admit it took me a number of days to run the gamete of emotions I felt in regards to this student wanting his grade changed.  Those emotions ranged from "no way you had your chances" to "but what if he's ready now."  

That later of those two thoughts kept running through my head..."what if he's now ready?"  I got to thinking, if we know that students learn content in different time frames and in different ways, then it should also hold true that life lessons are learned in different time frames and in different ways.  I thought perhaps this could be this particular student's time to not only learn the content but to learn a life lesson as well.  I just had to find a way to do both.

After communicating with his parents, we decided to reassess his proficient understanding of the summative final.  Now, you may be thinking, "Whoa, wait a minute? Aren't you just enabling this kid?"  Had I offered extra credit or simply given him the percent, then yes I would have enabled him, but I did neither of those.  

Instead here is what I did....Since we are on winter break and grades are due upon our return I did some out of the box thinking as to how I could reassess understanding...I landed on Google Hangouts (GHO).  In addition to scheduling the GHO, the student had access to practice documents in Google drive.  He was able to complete the practice and shared it with me so that I could give feedback using the Google Docs comment feature.  

For your viewing, I captured the process from start to finish using Google HangoutsScreencast-O-matic & YouTube video editor.  Here it is! 

Now, I am not a (GHO) expert by any means.  I am certain there are more tech savvy educators out there that have thought of more creative uses.  No doubt I could have enabled screen sharing for him to complete it on the computer and/or utilized Google doc sharing but I figured the more tech I added then the more directions I had to give thus detracting from the point of the GHO.

And what was the point again? Ah yes...for the student to demonstrate increased understanding of the content.  This student can proudly say that he did.  He also now knows that it is only through increasing his understanding that he can raise his grade.  All too often people go through life thinking, "yah, but I did the work so I should get the credit." We must teach our students that it is the quality of their work and the depth of understanding it that will propel them to greatness.  

As the scene below points out, some day our students will no longer be ours.  They will be students of others, be it in the same building or when they move on to college.  Some may directly enter the work force or join the military.  What ever path it is they take, before they leave us, we must ask ourselves if we provided every learning opportunity possible for them to grow as learners and as individuals.

"The Middle" airs on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. EST on ABC.