In the firsttwo installments of our proficiency-based grading series, we discussed how I came to use a proficiency-based grading system and ideas on how to set up a proficiency-based grade book. Today, I want to share some thoughts on what types of grades we want to include (or not include). Remember, our goal with transforming our grade book is to have our grades truly represent what our students know and can do in the target language.
Here are the 6 dos and don’ts of a proficiency-based grade book:
Grades should be effective communication vehicles, and the methods used to determine them need to provide optimum opportunities for student success and to encourage learning.—Ken O’Connor, How to Grade for Learning
Over the course of a few years, my colleagues and I came up with a proficiency-based grading system that we felt truly reflected how our students were able to use the target language. I want to share a few topics you need to consider when making the shift to a more proficiency-based grade book. You may not be at a place to implement all of these ideas right now (if you are, that’s awesome!) and that’s OK; you can start by changing one or two things now as you are transitioning.
I have always focused on getting my students to use the language in the classes I have taught, even before anyone was talking about the “path to proficiency”. But I never really thought much about my grade book and if it reflected what was important in my classroom: how the students use the language. I now realize that for more than half of my teaching career my grade book was not focused on what I was saying important. It was focused on tests, projects, quizzes, homework, and participation, not communication.
In Part 1 of our series on authentic resources we talked about the basics of authentic resources. Today we are going to take a deeper dive and look at how your students can interact with these great resources to learn vocabulary and grammar in context.
Authentic resources are an excellent way to provide the needed input for learners to begin to acquire new vocabulary or language structures. By showing examples of how the language is actually used, students are not learning the information in isolation, but rather with meaning attached to it, embedded in context and culture. As they interact with the resource, they are seeing how and why it is used in different instances.
In classrooms using a proficiency-driven instructional method, the teacher moves from being the provider of all new knowledge to the co-constructor of that knowledge. Instead of front-loading our learners with all the words or rules they could possibly ever need, I am proposing using authentic resources to show them how the language is used by native-speakers and letting students organize that new knowledge in a way that is meaningful for them.