If you want to open up a contentious conversation with any group of teachers, or the public at large, engage people in the topic of whether late work, or plagiarized work should factor into a high school student’s mark.
Since the start of the school year both Ontario and Saskatchewan have waded into this debate. Earlier this week the focus was on Saskatoon:
Saskatoon’s public high school students will no longer be penalized for plagiarism or for turning in assignments late under a new evaluation method for report cards.
Last month, the focus was on Ontario, which had been seen on the leading-edge of separating assessment from work habits, and made the following adjustment:
New guidelines from the Ontario Ministry of Education will allow secondary school teachers to give students a grade of zero if they fail to hand in assignments on time — something teachers have been discouraged from doing in the past.
Regardless of which direction jurisdictions follow in the debate, the discussion is very entrenched. On the one side, there are those who point to the need to separate students performance related to a set of outcomes from their behaviours (including whether assignments are in on time or whether they copied some of the work). On the other side, are those looking for students to be real-world ready, where there are deadlines and consequences.
We do often equate the information we use to determine grades as being synonymous for what we value. If we don’t include behaviours like participation, timeliness of work, or academic honesty, how do we show they are important?
There are a number of leaders in this field. Ken O’Connor is a regular presenter in many British Columbia districts and says:
I continue to support the idea of not giving zeros, late penalty mark exclusion, and failing to provide extra credit opportunities that count for grades because they are educationally undesirable practices.
O’Connor, along with Damion Cooper (another sought after presenter in B.C.), are co-authors of the Communicating Student Learning – Guidelines for Schools in Manitoba. It is interesting to see that in line with the Ontario discussion, some of the same discussions are happening in Manitoba.
Student understanding of the importance of deadlines, guidelines giving proper credit when others’ work is shared, amongst a host of other work-ethic habits, are very important. As a parent, I want feedback not only on my children’s progress in relation to the outcomes of any given course, but their growth in a host of very important behaviours, as well.
I just don’t want the two mixed up, so that I can’t understand where the assessment of learning ends, and where their development of work habits begin.