May 9, 2021
Many schools are getting ready to finalize student grades for the 2020–21 school year. Some schools chose to evaluate students with the same rubric they used in the classroom, even if they remained virtual for most of the school year.
Whatever you chose to do this year, your school is probably assessing your options for the fall. We anticipate that many schools will use a combination of online learning and on-campus instruction—blended learning—for the 2021–22 school year.
If your school is among those considering blended learning, what grading system will you use? We outline our suggestions below.
Grading and Assessment Recommendations for Blended Learning
Assessments used in blended learning should not be the same as those used in the traditional classroom. Instead, we recommend designing assessments that use authentic demonstrations of learning called “performance tasks.”
What are Performance Tasks?
Performance tasks are learning activities that require students to take meaningful action to demonstrate knowledge, understanding, and development. In this model, the student produces a tangible product that serves as evidence of real learning. Teachers assess both the process and the product using rubrics based on desired outcomes.
In using performance tasks, teachers want students to employ creative thinking. Some examples include recording podcasts, writing blog posts, or making short films. Performance tasks that help students analyze concepts include creating a survey, writing a persuasive opinion piece, or conducting an assessment about media coverage of a chosen topic.
What About Tests During Blended Learning?
When students learn both in the classroom and online, proctored exams are a waste of precious in-classroom time. At the same time, formal tests do not work well online. Therefore, we do not recommend testing students when schools use blended learning.
Blending learning assessments should be low stakes with teachers encouraging self-assessment through reflection. Students should be allowed to use feedback from their teachers or peers to revise their work. This requires frequent and straightforward conversations conducted via video chat or phone calls.
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How Do We Measure Progress?
In blended learning, you want to administer formative—rather than summative—assessments that gauge understanding. Share your findings with parents and students through narratives, reinforcing what the grade actually means.
When students are not on campus, effort and participation should play no part in the grade. Equity and access can adversely affect students who may not have a quiet place to work or who may have to care for siblings at home. Instead, when conducting blended or distance learning, assessments should be based on evidence of knowledge—not on the amount of work completed.
We recommend eliminating arbitrary reporting dates in blended learning. Time should be a variable and learning should be the constant. Report when students reach a level of proficiency. Teachers’ communications with parents and students should directly address what students accomplish.
Use this opportunity to evaluate students on proficiency and mastery. In place of traditional grading systems, students can demonstrate understanding of concepts through performance tasks designed to engage with and reinforce the knowledge necessary for positive outcomes.