This past fall I had the opportunity to visit a number of high-schools to learn about teacher wants and needs in regards to a gradebook/portfolio that communicates student learning. In most cases, high-school teachers who have had a chance to explore FreshGrade did not feel that it met their needs. These are the most common concerns that arose:
- FreshGrade is too time consuming when teachers have upwards of 120 students in a semester setting or 210 in a linear setting
- FreshGrade does not generate a grade or percent that students and parents can see
- FreshGrade does not have the ability to produce a progress report to send home periodically throughout the year
Here are my thoughts on each of these concerns:
Concern #1: FreshGrade is time consuming
My argument would be that FreshGrade, like any tool, is what you make of it. If teachers own the process and are the ones exclusively selecting learning evidence then it can be hugely time consuming. In a recent blog post titled “From CSL to SCL” I made the point that encouraging students to own their FreshGrade portfolio and reflect on their learning is what creates student agency. Moreover, if we embrace this as teachers it will be more efficient for us, as we can invest our limited energy on other more impactful things. Imagine running your FreshGrade Gradebook/Portfolio in a similar way as Mayfield Secondary school is in the Globe & Mail article “Ontario high-school students to negotiate final grades in experiment.” I wonder if teachers could adopt a standard-based grading approach where students select evidence over a period of time and use the evidence to conference with their teacher to justify a grade. What I love about this scenario is students are at the centre. They are collecting the evidence, they are doing the learning, and they are taking responsibility for their learning.
Concern #2: FreshGrade does not generate a letter grade or percent
This is absolutely true and in my opinion is an advantage that FreshGrade has over other platforms. For those not familiar, FreshGrade will generate a percent (if a teacher wishes) based on whatever calculation teachers choose but they are the only ones who see this, students and parents do not. Instead, they see “buckets” in the portfolio view that provide opportunity for descriptive feedback and a performance scale if the teacher chooses to use one. What FreshGrade does better than any platform I’ve seen is that it links learning evidence in a portfolio to a gradebook. The benefit I see in this model is that it shifts the narrative to be about learning rather than “playing school.” Instead of fixating on how a given task (project, test, etc.) may have affected an overall grade, the attention is focused on the feedback a student received in relation to a learning standard. In this case a student may get some feedback on what he or she is doing well and also learn about their next steps in learning, both of which cannot be understood with just a raw grade or percent.
Concern #3: FreshGrade does not provide progress reports
Correct. There are ways I’ve seen teachers hack this to make it work but the whole point of communicating student learning with a platform like FreshGrade is that it allows for timely and ongoing feedback. In fact, teachers who have used FreshGrade to communicate student learning often feel that progress reports and report cards in general become obsolete since students and parents know at all times where they are at with their learning.