Timmy finishes a semester of Algebra II and earns an 62%. How does this feedback help him better understand…

– what’s the goal?

– where is he in relation to the goal?

– what are the next steps?

For most students, grades are numbers and letters that communicate one thing: how smart they are.

As part of our exploration for how to grade in a way that fosters the growth mindset, we’re investigating two dynamics of assessment: unbundling and collaboration. This month we’re focusing on unbundling, which is the process of splitting something up into its component parts. Over the years, grades have taken on more and more aspects and academic skills have been bundled with a lot of non-academic factors. We think helping teachers unbundle their grades will better communicate to students where they are in relation to goals, shed more light on what the possible next steps can be and just be more fair overall.

We are attempting to unbundle grades in two ways: formative from summative and academic from everything else.

Formative and summative assessments serve different purposes but are often lumped together into a single grade. Summative assessments communicate performance while formative assessments communicate progress, and both have their place. The problem though is when formative tasks are given when students are still learning can affect their final grades. The message is that mistakes are unacceptable and students should get things right the first time. There’s nothing more demotivating to growth than permanent consequences.

Traditionally, overall grades include many non-academic factors like attendance, lateness, behavior and effort. The issue with this approach is that bundling so many factors together makes progress unclear. Focusing only on one single overall evaluation is like a basketball coach telling a player, “Be a better basketball player” without telling him or her exactly what needs improving. Furthermore, by bundling behavior issues into academic scores, students aren’t receiving the right interventions that actually address the real problem.

If you’re interested in joining us in this exploration as a teacher or a whole school, please reach out to hello@pomegranatelab.com and we can set something up!

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