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Life Science


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Clayton Crawford Clayton Crawford 130 Points

I teach Biology to 10th graders, and this year I am attempting to go gradeless, or as close to it as I can get. Obviously, there will be a grade at the end of the term, but I will not put a number or letter grade on anything, simply provide feedback and what they have mastered, and where they still have room for improvement. We will also be doing both short and long term projects, that should help students to understand the relationships and the concepts I am teaching. I am hoping these will replace worksheets. And grading these types of things get difficult and is often unfair or upsetting to students. We may in fact still have quizzes and assessments, to check their knowledge, just not for a grade. I teach other science classes, Anatomy, Geology and Meteorology and such. Those will be easier to design project for, and we have used many in the past. Plan to be gradeless in those as well. Anyone out there thought of this? Or tried it? What are your thoughts and feelings? I'd love to hear from you. Clay

Pamela Dupre Pamela Dupre 92364 Points

I dislike grading, however, I do see the need for it. When students attend College, they are graded. I do believe that there are cases where a student should be given a "do over." I have also seen some teachers who write assignments on the board for a six week period. At the end of the six week period, students should turn in all assignments. It caused major problems for students who were not self-motivated and many parents were unaware of the practice. If we decide to go gradeless, it makes me wonder about long term impacts on students. We are working with a group of young people today that always got some kind of participation trophy just for trying and they have difficulties if they are in an environment that doesn't consistently convey to them that they are wonderful and trying so hard.

Jennifer Wiley Jennifer Wiley 120 Points


   Going completly gradless (or as close as you can) seems like a daunting task. Because the students will recieve a grade at the end of the course, you will still need to track their progress so each student can recieve a fair grade. I recently read an article about single-point rubrics. They are simple and effective. With a single-point rubric, you are able to describe the targets of the project using a single column of traits. With this one column, you are able to describe what students did or created that helps reach those targets. Creating these types of rubrics do not take too long. This allows you to easily track the progress of your students so you can look back at the end of the term and see what progress the student has made. 

Jennifer Wiley 

Elementary Education Undergrad

Wartburg College 

Amy Haaland Amy Haaland 3815 Points

I love the idea, but am wondering how you justify the grade at the end of the quarter/semester if there is no documented grade before then. How do you hold students accountable and keep parents informed? I can see this working in an elementary classroom where we tend to have more parental contact, but I don't know how you would make this work with high school students. If you have hyper-motivated students, I could see this working, but if not, you may have a hard time getting them to work. If you do this, I'd love to know how it works!!

Amanda Wolfe Amanda Wolfe 16365 Points

Hi Clay, Wow! This is very ambitious and I would love to know how this goes through out the year. Please keep us informed. I have always struggled with how grades affect my students. For my high achievers it seems to narrow their focus and for my struggling learners they get discouraged with by low grades on homework or tests early on which would lower their overall grade in a traditional school. I have heard of other teachers at charter and private schools who have gone gradeless and more portfolio based. I recently worked for a high school, Del Lago Academy in Escondido California, where we had a Never Too Late To Learn policy across the school. It was not gradeless but we would hold the students accountable to passing each competency (summative assessment) with a 2.5 or higher on the 4 point rubrics. If they did not pass we would not give them a grade we give them a "No Mark" and they would have to retake the competency or later demonstrate with another competency that they had acquired the skill or content knowledge. Also if they wanted to raise their score and demonstrate a higher level of understanding before the end of the semester we would give them the opportunity. This school wide policy completely changed the way that I taught and interacted with my students. When I gave out the first "grades" of the year I conferenced with each student at my table and we had a short discussion about their work and the comments I had for improvement. I taught 9th grade so all of the parents would freak out at first and of course some of the students would take advantage of the no penalty for late work etc. but overall it brought out the best in my students and kept the focus on growth and learning. I would love to know how you end up communicating with parents about progress and if there are other teachers who have alternative grading policies they have implemented.

Jennifer Coggins Jennifer Coggins 10 Points

I really like the idea presented for non-grading to use a 4 point rubric and have a "not met yet" category. I like how that sets up learning on a continuum rather than a grade which says you either got it or you didn't. When I've used nongraded aspects in my classroom I find it most helpful to have students generate individual goals in which they can assess their own accomplishment and growth. Students commit to their individual goals on a form and then conference with each other and myself to revise and adjust their goals. After which, they set their own rubric. At the end of the project they evaluate themselves on their individual rubric. I find doing this keeps the student motivated, accountable, and goal oriented without the frustration. It removes the perceived bias and puts the ownership on the student. For my middle school students, I find that they do not cheat as there is no incentive to do so. I don't know if this would work as well for high school.

Araceli Garcia Araceli Garcia 980 Points

Going off on a gradeless class, I think that a rubric would be a great way to see where the student stands in the objective and certain aspects of what was expected. I can see where the students could use the feedback they receive on their rubric to improve their skills at the beginning of the next class or on a half page reflection, half page research about it. Making the students responsible for their learning would give them ownership of their education and how much they learn. This is also a way for the students to see what it is that they are struggling in and attempt to improve on this skill in the following class lesson.

Emily Faulconer Emily Faulconer 5595 Points

I agree that rubrics would be a key resource for communicating expectations and feedforward in a gradeless class. 

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