Pride of the Edu-Mountain.

Strangely enough, this is a real consideration.

Strangely enough, this is a real consideration.

Not sticking assignments to your Battle Armor with magnets. That’s not a real consideration.

The idea that student work is rapidly graded, with “actionable feedback” and in turn, displayed prominently when of solid quality. We all know that student work should be on display in the classroom environment. That’s sensible, logical, and we all know it.

Still…what is the best way to really go about that? It’s a very serious, very meaningful “classroom environment” question.

The bulk of the work in English class is the writing of essays, and being very fair, those just don’t display very well. Thankfully, I have an upcoming project that is more artistically and narrative driven…that should work far better for “wall space” type decor projects. Even this week’s group work should do a solid job on that front. Still, consider this thorny problem.

I have two hundred students. In groups of four, that means that I will receive fifty projects at the end of the week, of roughly poster size at completion. At five sections of English class, reasonably I can only put up about one per class, the best one in fact….even then, 75 square feet of wall space will be suddenly covered with the top ten percent of assignments.

What happens to the rest of them, then? If the goal is to reward solid work with actionable feedback and public praise, there should be three or so group projects per class…a total of twelve…that are solid B-level work. Those students could use encouragement, praise, and the magnet on the refrigerator treatment…but there simply isn’t the wall space to make it so. It’s an ugly reality of group work…the generally increased size of it limits the exhibition factor substantially.

Still…last week, I asked for an essay, in two drafts. Roughly three quarters of my two hundred students turned in the work…meaning that I have close to one hundred fifty papers to be graded, and with a rapid turn around time with an upcoming report card. That is a substantial amount of work, to be sure….but displaying the A papers would certainly take up less wall space.

The trade off is clear, though…fifty group projects versus one hundred and fifty individual papers. I think on some level, the rise of that sort of assessment has a good deal to do with teacher convenience, in making the workload more approachable and “assessable”…although, honestly, I’ve never thought of it that way before. Generally, I look at group work as something I need to intensely monitor during the process…for progress, for the task being done, to keep the noise level tolerable, and to keep students from free loading in the groups. I’ve never considered it in terms of the volume of culminating task grades as so radically reduced.

The art, of course, is about how teachers can actually share examples of student work. At yesterday’s meeting, one teacher lamented that only about twenty percent of his students had turned in the assignment. With his student load of eighty, that meant that he was looking at less than twenty papers. He could easily have shared the whole number of them with the other teachers, with no trouble at all. By contrast, I’ve been putting together a “sampler” stack of my one hundred and fifty or so turned in works, so that I can give examples in a meeting of the high end, the low end, and the average, with an eye toward determining what needs to be retaught about writing.

The Chicken Knight, of course, had no essays. No magnets either.

Still…the idea that you can review another teacher’s classwork on a similar concept is a pretty excellent check and balance for your real productivity as a teacher. It’s a valuable meeting time use, and when taken seriously, it can really streamline your effectiveness.

It can also make it much easier to decide what goes up on the wall, and what doesn’t.


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