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Trials and Tribulations of Gradeless Biology

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Today is April 16th and I woke up to a world coated in ice. I knew at 6AM that school buses were cancelled for the day, and was frankly delighted to have a student-free day to catch up on my marking and other loose ends after a very busy month.

This tweet is what reminded me to put blogging on my to-do list; thanks Matthew and Pete for the little push!

Ideas, lead to writing, which leads to more ideas. (thanks @dougpete!). https://t.co/2zAsUotWRj. If you have a few moments at home today, if your school is cancelled, maybe you can write a blog piece? — Matthew Oldridge (@MatthewOldridge) April 16, 2018
So, what to write about? I have so many things I'd like to share; sometimes this causes me to write very LONG posts that touch on lots of different things. Today, inspired by the post/thread above, I've decided to focus on just one thing. That way, I'll have to blog more often to get the rest of my ideas out, right? We'll see. It's still a long post. :) 


Grade-less in Bi…

Just Too Busy

A few years ago, I learned how to say 'no' when I needed to. I started saying 'no' when asked to join (yet another) school committee. I declined invitations to Pampered Chef parties. I confidently refused dinner invitations when I knew I needed to hibernate at home on a Friday night.

It turns out I need a little retraining, though.

Returning to the classroom this year has been phenomenal. I feel at home. I love my work. Every day I am challenged and delighted by my students. I love the adrenaline rush of working in a school; there is never enough time to do everything on my list, but I thrive on the constant, joyful chaos that life in a school brings.

Ditto for home - my house isn't always clean and sometimes we run out of milk, but I love the challenge of family life. Cooking dinner, cleaning up after people and pets, driving people to and from activities, folding laundry, finding time to exercise...these things are just part of living with your tribe. It is busy…

New Year (Semester End!) Musings

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The November/December high-speed train has made its yearly visit, and though I am certainly still exceedingly busy I've got some thoughts swirling around that I'd like to share. 

With only about 10 days left with my students I am firmly entrenched in a familiar January struggle that has me torn between doing what I need to do (some marking, end of semester conferences, prep for exams) and what I want to do (drop everything and work on plans for next semester). Spending a few minutes blogging seems like a great way to avoid making a decision about the other things. :)

Shortly before the Christmas break, my pre-holiday frenzy was interrupted by this blog post by Susan Campo. She wonders about the meaning of a 30% final evaluation in a gradeless classroom and reading her post put me into a strange head space. Having jumped back into the classroom this year trying lots of new things I hadn't posed this question myself...and it really threw me for a loop.

My path this year has led…

Midterm Reflections: #BIT17, PD Day, Midterms, Student Feedback, and Tracking Observations

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I've got an hour to spare and need to get caught up on this blog (not a little bit, a 'lotta' bit, as my daughter would say)...it is hard to express how busy October and November have been, personally and professionally, but I am determined to remain committed to writing about (and reflecting on) my teaching and learning this year. (In other words, WAY too early in the year to fall off the blogging bandwagon!)

This post contains:
#BIT17, PD Day, Midterms, Student Feedback, and Tracking Observations/Conversations
Scroll down to the part you want to read...it's a very long post! :) 


November 9-10 at #BIT17 Conference

It was wonderful to return to BIT this year, but so different than the last three years because I was leaving my classroom. Preparing for the conference while planning for my absence had my mind spinning a bit. I was presenting on work that I had done in the last two years as STEAM coordinator on the Program and Innovation team. This work was very dear to me, yet…

Student Voice in Science

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I have been thinking about ways I can invite student voice into my Science classroom. Here are a things I have found valuable so far this year.

Revisiting Lab Notebooks
Many years ago, I asked that my Chemistry students keep a lab notebook to use for lab work. The purpose of the notebooks, at that time, was for students to record their data during the lab activity, then to write their 'lab report' in the notebook when the activity was over. I abandoned this practice at some point, finding the stack of lab notebooks made a formidable marking pile that I dreaded tackling. I think now that it may have been the monotony of marking 30 or 60 identical labs that I was actually dreading.

This year, my grade 12 students are using lab notebooks for some of their lab activities. Their first use of their notebooks was during our first learning cycle when they were asked to design and perform an experiment to electroplate a metal object. I made it clear to my students that their lab notebo…

First Unit Gradeless in 12U Chem, Part 2

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OK, so it has been about a week since the last brain dump...time for another. Lots of turkey between then and now. :) I hope everyone had a restful weekend.

Last time, I left off explaining that my grade 12 students and I were going to come to a consensus about a grade that represents their learning in the first chemistry unit. For this to happen, the students and I each had some homework to do first:

Students completed a self-assessment based on the overall learning goals for the unit, assigning themselves a level (1-4) for each item. After that, they had the option of assigning themselves a grade or grade range) that they felt represented their learning so far.Using my data (from product, conversation, and observation) I assigned each student a grade range based on their progress (75-80, 80-85, etc.) 
Students submitted their self-assessments to me so that I had time to read their comments. The majority of students in my two classes have submitted their self-assessments for the firs…

First Unit Gradeless in 12U Chem, Part 1

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I would love to write a very long blog post right now, but just don't have the time, so I'm going to try to share what's been happening in a few 'shorter' posts (they won't actually be short, because I don't have time this week to edit them down to their essences...so I hope you don't mind if it feels more like a train of thought).

Student Point of View so FarAt the end of last week my grade 12 students had come to the 'end' of their electrochemistry unit having not received a single grade. I used single point rubrics to give feedback on their lab reports and written & verbal feedback for our quick quizzes and the unit test. On Friday my students were asked to complete a very brief survey with a single question.

Question:
What are your reflections about our gradeless classroom so far? Be honest and open. This survey is anonymous.

I currently have about 50 students in this course, and the responses from students varied. Here are some of the respo…