Sunday, September 29, 2013

The @ASCD Arias Series-Grading And Group Work

Recently ASCD released 4 short books that are aimed at packing a big punch in a small package. Each are less that 100 pages but have loads of quality information. Over the next few posts we will look at each one to see what they are all about. Then we will give away 1 copy of each. Sound like fun? In the first post we took a look at Fostering Grit. Then we examined Teaching With Tablets. In this post we dive deep with Grading and Group Work. 

Before I became a teacher it was ingrained it me in my Teacher Ed program that group work was the way to go. Students are social creatures and should be working together. After all we want to help foster learning that is collaborative because that is what the real-world is like. 

So, thats what I did. As a science teacher it made sense. Each group could work on their set of experiments and we could do data comparisons across groups. It was perfect. 

Well sorta. 

Every member of the group had a role. Group leader, recorder, stuff gatherer, etc. But as was true when I was in middle school, one kid in the group took the lead and wound up doing most, if not all the work. (Sometimes that kid was me. And I did it because I loved to learn, but I really wanted a good grade too.) 

Then came the time for me to give the students a grade. (You know, because at the time, that is what I had to do.) And I really struggled. I knew not every student did equal work. But did they all deserve an equal grade? Do I let them grade each other? Rubrics? I used various methods some successful, some not so much. 

Enter Grading and Group Work.

In this ASCD Arias book, Susan Brookhart breaks down the essentials for just that; grading and group work. As the subtitle says: "How do I assess individual learning when students work together?" this book provides insight into the group learning process and offers suggestions for making group learning a success. 

One aspect I really enjoyed was the distinction between Group Work and Cooperative Learning. As Brookhart points out, cooperative learning is highlighted by students working together on something (project, assignment, etc) but each student is accountable for their own work. Rather in group work is students working together on a singular project or assignment. And she says, while it is easy to assign group grades in these cases, we don't have to. We just have to be creative with our formative assessments throughout the process to ascertain individual learning. 

The heart of the book is the how-to individually assess students who are working in groups. Brookhart covers everything from oral conferences (which I think are a wonderful idea) to student reflections on their learning (written), to summative assessments that have precise, well-designed questions, she offers several, well-crafted solutions to really get to the heart of the assessment process in group learning. 

In the back of the book, Brookhart gives several reflection questions to consider when grouping students, a checklist of quick-wins to look for and a collection of websites for learning more about effective student group learning. 

In an age where we are placing more and more emphasis on individual student learning and providing more opportunities for students to collaborate on their learning, effective assessments of individual learning may prove to be challenging. But they don't have to be, as Brookhart points out. 

You can learn more about Grading and Group Work here. As with all the ASCD Arias, this one is a short and easy read. At 41 pages you can finish this one in a planning period and be well on your way to more effective assessment in group learning. 
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