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Lesson Plans

grading (long post)

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Mary Tapia (
Fri, 25 Oct 1996 15:01:37 -0500 (CDT)

Dear Kathleen and others who were involved in her discussion of grading

I saved the initial letter sent to all of us inquiring about grading. I
waited until I had time to respond and hoped I would see some of the
discussion. Evidently, it was all directed to Kathleen's personal address
instead of the group. At any rate, I have time now and thought I would
share with all of you some of the issues I have grappled with over the
years in hopes of learning from your insight. Kathleen, if you saved any
of the responses that you got I would love it if you could forward them to

I have been pro- portfolio forever. I believe that the process of setting
goals for yourself and evaluating yourself based on those goals is good for
children to help them reach some higher levels of thinking. It also
benefits the teacher (and in the long run, the student) in that s/he can
evaluate the students not only on the outcomes of the lessons but on their
individual growth over time. In theory, it really makes sense to me. In
practice, however, here are some of the roadblocks.

1) When you see the students once a week for an hour, that means you see
them just over 40 times in a year. In my case, that translates to
approxiamately 10 finished artworks in their portfolio. These 10 pieces
are of all different types of media. I encourage the children to set broad
enough goals so that they can work on them in any media. Regardless, there
aren't huge leaps and bounds made in 10 works of art especially when the
conceptual focus is different with each piece. How can the student or the
teacher make a fair evaluation at the end of the year or worse yet, after 1

2) I used to give the children a self assessment on the outcomes of every
lesson which they would keep in their portfolio. After a portfolio review
every quarter or trimester, I would keep the self- assessments as record of
the work and they would take the actual work home. Some of the work is
just experimental in nature for example when a concept is introduced.
There isn't an expectation of "mastery" or being able to go "above an
a)Can you keep record of all their work without keeping it all or
giving them a "grade" in your book when the outcomes can't always be
measured beyond "successful experiment" or "unsuccessful experiment"?
b)If the success is measured by wether they learned something from
the experiment or not, aren't you just testing their verbal
intelligence/abilities in so far as can they communicate to you what they
have learned?

3) When I was in a K-3 school there was the issue of bringing the work
home "fresh" right when they finish and are excited about it. Now in a 4-6
building it is less of an issue but still exists to some degree. If you
are constantly building on concepts and larger ideas spiraling the
curriculum, what about those "experimental works", the works that were
stepping stones to larger ideas? When they go home without the whole
process completed, wouldn't a parent get a confusing message of the
process vs. product idea?

Here is how I resolved it this year. Please let me know how you have
resolved some of these issues. We approach each lesson as a question. We
wonder about something and go about it as an investigation. The
experiments along the way of our investigation stay in the student's
portfolio until the final piece is created. The final piece is the
student's application of the concepts and information discovered along this
investigational path. They only evaluate themselves on their progress
toward their goal and on the outcomes of the investigation after the final
piece is complete. The final piece is the only piece that I evaluate based
on a 4 point rubric system (3 being the standard). The experiments go home
with an explanation of the whole process. The final piece stays in their
portfolio with hopes that at the end of the year the 4 or 5 projects
collected as applications of knowlege, skills and concepts will be a better
measurement of growth than the 10 miscellaneous in previos years.

If you're still reading, thanks for hanging in there. What do you think?
Also, this is how I have made the first solid connections with integrating
science and art. As an aside from that discussion, the processes are the