Assessment in the Classroom: No Zero Policy

Assessment is something that has been a hot topic in most of my education classes lately. Obviously assessment is such an important part of any type of education, however, is there only one specific set way of assessing? How do we know is valuable to assess, and how to do it in a reliable way?

There is the heated debate about the no zero policy. I am not 100% sure about how I feel about this issue because I have never taught my own class before; therefore my views about marking and assessment are not totally concrete. I believe that if a student does no work, then they should not receive a grade for it. I do not think that they should necessarily receive a zero on that particular assessment, however I think giving them the grade of “incomplete” is fair. I have a hard time understanding the notion of giving a student a minimum of 30%, who did not put any effort and did not complete an assignment at all, when another student did try and did not meet the rubric and only met 46% of the criteria.

I believe that school is not only a place where students should be learning new content and increasing their knowledge about various subjects, I also think it’s a place of creating life long leaners and therefore, teaching life skills. I don’t believe that giving a minimum mark to someone who put zero effort in and has no intentions of completing the assignment, is teaching them good life skills. Students need to realize that time management is a crucial life skill that needs to be learned early in life. If a student doesn’t respect due dates, then will they respect the dates and times for jobs in the future? If they have learned through their entire schooling that they can get marks for something they didn’t complete, it will create unreliable adults.

In a perfect world, (or my perfect world, at least) there would be no marks. Does there need to be a grade attached to pieces of work that students create in the classroom? I would rather give really specific feedback explaining what my students excel at and what they need to continue to work at. I find it really hard to define a 73% graded essay and then what makes a 75%. What is the 2% that makes it different/better?

I realize that this notion is really unrealistic as everything in our world revolves around grades. Our own faculty of education revolves around maintain a certain average in our classes in order to be allowed to stay in the program. I have a hard time with this approach because I understand that being able to maintain a certain grade is essential in ensuring that we are being good learners, however a question I have wondered often is does a certain grade reflect what type of teacher I will be? Furthermore, if I am able to maintain a grade above 70% (in my major area which is English), does that mean I will be a good teacher? Is it fair to say that people who don’t maintain that average won’t be good teacher, and need to go back and retake those subject area classes? This is something that is near and dear to my heart, because I don’t believe that a student who received 68.5% in their major area should have to have their degree set back a year in order to pull that average up. I struggle with this area of my education because even though my major is English and that is the subject I need to stay above 70% in, once I receive my degree and am a licensed teacher, there is no guarantee that I will be teaching English. I can be teaching any subject area, in any grade level. Therefore, I am not completely sure that maintaining a certain average in a specific area is a valuable reflection of teaching abilities.

Instead, I believe that real world experience is what we would be judged on because that is the best way of gaining knowledge. It my opinion, I see lots of fellow students who are absolutely great at learning. They get great grades and can complete every assignment more than satisfactory, and can create fantastic lesson plans on paper. However, I wonder what will happen when these people are challenged with learners who are different from them and they find that things don’t go as planned? I will end this post with posing this question – does a great student equal a great teacher?

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