Since I am only going to grade my students based entirely on lesson activity, it has to be crystal clear for these students how the grading works. It will also be important for the students to be aware of how they are doing and continuously receive feedback on what they can improve. That is why I am going to use the “digital activity assessment tool” which is built into “Ma.fi / Matematik.fi”.
If a student is to learn mathematics he has to be active and take responsibility for his own learning, so the idea of the tool is very simple. It consists of a few paragraphs describing wanted activity such as individual work, collaboration, problem solving, use of technology, following instructions, use of theory and how the student presents a problem. These paragraphs can for example have points from 0-2 with specified criteria for each point. The idea is that if a student meets all of these criteria he is learning the content. However, if a student does not meet the criteria it is the teacher’s job to point it out for the student and lower the specific point. Since this tool is digital the student will always see how he is doing, and when it is time to grade the student the points can easily be converted into a grade.
This is the basic idea on how I am going to grade my students based on lesson activity and I am now going to discuss a few more specific details on how to use it in practise. But before I do that I would like to point out that the paragraphs, criterias and points can be modified by the teacher to suit his own ideas on what prefered activity is and it is also possible for the guardians of a student to see the scores.
As I said the tool can be modified, meaning it can be used in different ways. There are, however, two things that I would like to point out that makes it easy and efficient to use. The first thing is before even starting to use it in the classroom the teacher should have a discussion with his students on how they would like to be graded. Of course students will say that the activity during lessons should affect the grade, but what is activity? If the teacher asks the right questions such as “what can you do if you are stuck on a problem” students will easily come up with suggestions like discussing the problem with friends or use the theory or internet for help. These are good strategies for actively trying to solve problems that students are supposed to learn, so this will of course be a part of how they will be graded.
The second thing is how the teacher should adjust the points and this is important for the sake of the teacher and his students. First of all the students will start with maximum points since it is more motivating to work for keeping your scores, rather than having to start from zero. Then when it is time for the teacher to lower the score it is important to have a discussion on why the points are lowered. For instance, let us say that a student is playing games on his mobile phone. As a teacher you will just ask the student to motivate how this activity is helping him to learn. Since this is not possible the student will agree that his points on “use of technology” must be lowered and in this case probably also “individual work”. Another example could be a student who is late for class. A student who is late for class will most likely disrupt the whole lesson meaning that he is not good at collaborating. A final example could be a student who did not write all the necessary steps of a solution for a problem, which of course is a must in a scientific subject, so this student cannot have full points in “presenting problems”.
As you probably start to realize this is an efficient tool for getting rid of unwanted activity and guide students in the right way. It is up to the teacher to make sure that his students understands why you must do things in a certain way and be clear about the rules from the start.
But how is it then that you can reward the right kind of activity? As a teacher you might have between 50-100 students in total and it is not your job to keep track on all of your students scores and remember everything that they have to work on. Instead you throw the ball to them. If you have had a discussion with a student on what he did wrong and the student is aware of it, it is then his job to think about it, improve it and when he has, he must point it out to you as a teacher. As a teacher you must then decide if the student deserves a higher point or not. You might say that you will keep an extra eye on him the upcoming lessons and then decide.
The idea of all of this is of course to make sure students start to take responsibility for their learning and make them aware of what they can improve. Because if there is one thing that is obvious to me, it is that if a student does everything right, he will learn and he will become more and more motivated to improve his skills and this will result in a genuine interest for science.
Are you interested in having a closer look at this tool for grading students and perhaps even try it out yourself? Then please visit Ma.fi (available in English, Swedish and Finnish)