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June 04, 2008


Not a comp teacher in a formal sense, but when did that stop me? I think that, if students across the board have to complete the same assignment no matter the course, then the standards for the assignment and the marking should be normed, but my idea of norming is different from yours, I think.

On the portfolios -- I think the assignment needs to be introduced as early as possible and there needs to be reiteration throughout the semester. Those teaching the course need to come up with certain basic kinds of assignments that have to be included.

At the marking level, I think there should be blind marking of all the work, no matter the student. It's a pain, and much more marking, but the only way I can see of getting around the different styles and really looking at the actual content -- and the good thing about blind marking is that anyone in the department should be able to do it -- any comp teacher should be able to mark a process essay versus an argument essay, no?

On the other side of the Atlantic, I know that many, if not most, of my colleagues do this regularly -- most unis have an outside reader (from outside the uni, but in the specialty) read all the exams and mark them.

ADM said what I was going to say. In undergrad, I took a course of which there were many sections. (it was a team taught class, and we had panel lecture twice a week, and section twice a week) Our final papers were graded by any one of the profs---randomly assigned and IDed by using only our ID numbers. They were 25% of the grade. It really reduced the grousing about Prof. A being easier than Prof B. Juries in voice were even worse--100% of your grade was based on a jury that was heard by all the profs in the department--except the one you had. In both cases, I feel like it upped the ante on the prof's parts--they wanted to look good for their peers. I definitely learned more in those classes than in many others.

All that being said, this is high school. probably way too much drama.

Oh, and my typepad has been cruising with the new interface--at home. My work computer (no I'm not blogging all day--I have a work blog) is molasses with the new interface.

Another "not a comp teacher" but. . . comment. I use final portfolios in my senior seminars in lieu of final exams. The assignment is given, as with all of my assignments, on the first day of class. A typical portfolio usually includes some combination of their choice of their best contributions to the online discussion threads, some short responses to essays, some primary source analysis and the revisions of or response to critiques their major paper.

I really like the way that a portfolio allows them to take some of their work from across the term and showcase what they believe were their "best moments" in the class. I still need to fine-tune the portfolio requirements a bit but I find this a lot more enlightening than the traditional final exam. (And a lot more fun to evaluate!)

I am a comp teacher, and it sounds like your portfolio is the only real portfolio--it's hard to put together a real portfolio in just a week, if the point of the portfolio is to allow students to reflect on their past achievements and select work that best represents them. They can't do that if the portfolio isn't really integrated into the course.

The blind grading makes sense if you're emphasizing performance standards across the board; teacher grading makes sense if you're emphasizing performance within a course, where the students are writing to a known audience in a cozier fashion.

I have a bunch of questions about why you all decided to do portfolios, what you want them to show off, and also what you're doing as you grade. One advantage of portfolios can be that you comment so extensively up front that the final grading can go faster, but that's clearly not your experience of the moment.

The whole multiple-section experience seems problematic in ways that undermine the portfolio this year, though, and that's what I'd start with, not the rubric/lack of rubric, to try to untangle things.

what susan said! [real portfolio] yes, it *is* possible that your higher grades are a result of your approach to the portfolio and your apparently higher expectations. you're evaluating more than you are grading, and you structured the assignment in such a way that the students felt greater ownership of their work, and that distinction matters the most. it's why writer's workshop, done well, produces such amazing writing results.

and quite frankly, .2 to .6 percent is not that big a number, in the scheme of the universe, so even if you were off (which i do not believe is the case), bfd. if they put in a burst of extra effort at the end, it doesn't seem wrong that their grades are being modestly boosted this way.

i *really* like your letter approach! [considers stealing idea for ap students this year]

what exactly is the proposed outcome of separating the sheep from the goats? do the goats get special things like jumbo salt licks and visits to the town dump while the sheep languish in remedial grazing? i thought the point of portfolios was to document each individual student's writing growth throughout the year (or, in our case, the four years of high school). maybe it's just me.

if you're concerned about norming the evaluations across the three teachers, then yes, blind communal grading is the way to go. do what ap (college board) does -- calibrate yourselves to the rubric, read previously selected exemplars of each score point on the rubric, and then do I.D.#-only scoring so no one necessarily scores all of their own students. but the calibration is a necessary first step to ensure that everyone is scoring the same way.

or, and it doubles the time needed, have two readers per portfolio, with a tie-break third reader, if necessary. that's if total fairness and impartiality and balance are what are desired.

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Who is this What Now?

  • I'm an English teacher at Fabulous Girls' School (FGS). I'm a convert to Judaism. I am partner to D. We live in an adorable, messy little house in Adventure City. Two cats -- the Muse and the Contemplative -- live with us and keep life at home plenty adventurous.

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