How to Communicate Expectations?
This week, as part of the Pendulum Project Prototype I asked all the students to give a presentation regarding their experiences and plans for future paintings. To communicate my expectations for the presentations I planned to show them an example presentation and give them a model to work from. While this has worked in the past I wanted to try something that I heard from a colleague. The three level grading system.
The three level grading system is something that I saw while browsing Mike Amarillo's blog, another HTH teacher in Chula Vista. I saw that he had these descriptions of different "levels" of student work for presentations. Through a few emails he told me about the system that he uses. What I liked about it was that it clearly described expectations for student work in 3 levels of completion.
For example I used this for our presentations today as follows.
Basic Presentation: Key information included. All group members speak. Clear delivery
Advanced Presentation: Basic and diagram showing variable effect is high quality and well organized.
Challenge Presentation: Advanced and group shows expert knowledge by including calculations, answering audience questions, posing meaningful questions for themselves, etc.
After I gave my example presentation I had a discussion with the class where we categorized my work as Basic, Advanced, or Challenge. We talked about why it fit as one or another. In reality what I was doing was critique as a lesson, but what was different was that my expectations had already been outlined and so we were able to get specific very quickly.
How is This Not a Rubric?
Mike says that this method was developed from rubrics in a traditional setting, then adjusted to be useful for PBL education. There is a key difference between this and rubrics. Mike says that when making a three level grading system one should "Avoid basing grades on an ideal perfect performance and then defining ways of falling short" . This really stood out to me. The reason why I don't like rubrics is because they seem to limit the creativity of students while they seek to check all the boxes and they also are increasingly negative. In my example above the three level guide starts with the expectations and grows upward with an emphasis on open-ended descriptors and demonstrating mastery. The three levels should each represent distinct goals instead of 1 goal in different forms.
I used this with my kids and need to ask them a little about it. I wonder what their experience was with the guidelines. So far I don't know how I would use this grading because I like my own system so much thought I like how this helps communicate my expectations and is a reflective tool. It also forces me to define what my expectations are, which is half of the battle in my opinion.
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Philip Estrada is a teacher at High Tech High Media Arts in San Diego California. He teaches Physics by having kids build things in a woodshop.