May 8, 2018

“Grading (“Policy”)”

“I remember the first time that a grading rubric was attached to a piece of my writing… Suddenly all the joy was taken away.  I was writing for a grade — I was no longer exploring for me.  I want to get that back.  Will I ever get that back?” 

Claire, a student (in Olson, 2006)

In one study (Butler, 1992), some students were encouraged to think about how well they performed at a creative task while others were just invited to be imaginative.  Each student was then taken to a room that contained a pile of pictures that other people had drawn in response to the same instructions.  It also contained some information that told them how to figure out their “creativity score.” Sure enough, the children who were told to think about their performance now wanted to know how they had done relative to their peers; those who had been allowed to become immersed in the task were more interested in seeing what their peers had done.

The Case Against Grades (Kohn, Alfie)

Grading Policy

Alfie Kohn says grades “diminish students’ interest in whatever they’re learning”. Others say grading is necessary. If the latter is true, then Orchestra uses the following procedure to calculate quarterly grades.

Grading Policy: If a student works hard in orchestra, their grade will be fine. 

However, if you must know how students are graded, then every quarter students are graded on the following.

My Orchestra Engagement

  • Performance Development
  • Project Quality
  • Sense of Community
  • Sectional Class Engagement

View the “My Orchestra Engagement” grading policy in a nice looking layout (with colors!).

Performance Development

This reflects the hard work students display on improving on their main instrument. It may also include improvement in other musical aspects (improvisation, composition, other instruments, conducting, leading my section, etc.).

  • I consistently work hard to improve on my instrument.
  • I seek out strategies and resources to improve on my instrument.
  • I have improved on my instrument.
  • I have improved on another musical aspect other than my instrument.
  • I participate in extra musical activities.*

Project Quality

This reflects a combination of all of the projects students have completed during the quarter.

  • I consistently work hard on orchestra projects.
  • I turn in projects on time.

Sense of Community

This reflects student’s involvement in orchestra. It may reflect student’s engagement in rehearsal, the help students provide other members, the work students do to make orchestra great, their involvement in preparing for concerts and events, and much more.

It may be negatively impacted by disruptive behavior in a collaborative classroom, unwillingness to do your part to make orchestra great, and other similar actions that can negatively impact the collaborative nature of orchestra.

  • I am always prepared and on time for orchestra.
  • I work hard to do my part for my orchestra community.
  • I collaborate with members of my community.
  • I regularly help plan and set up for our performances.
  • I participate in Ork Bjord.*

Sectional Class Engagement

This reflects student engagement in sectional classes.

  • I attend all of my sectionals.
  • I am fully engaged at my sectionals.

*These items do not impact a student’s grade directly, but will provide opportunities for a student to excel in the given category. 

What We Should Focus On?

Instead of focusing on grades, we should focus on the following (not comprehensive) list.

  • Making quality music.
  • Learning about music.
  • Sharing music.
  • Forgetting about things that bring us down while making great music.
  • Collaborating with others.
  • Working hard to succeed at something.
  • Becoming better humans.