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Second Chances: Allowing Students the Opportunity to Improve

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To Give a Second Chance or Not Give a Second Chance, That is the Question

It’s very natural for any teacher, who has been teaching for an extended period of time, to look back at the beginning of their teaching career and think, “Is that really how I used to do things?”  I’ve been in education for over ten years, with seven of those years being in a full-time teaching position, and I still find myself reflecting upon how much my teaching practices have evolved and changed.  Personally, I find that to be very refreshing and comforting.  If my teaching practices have not evolved or changed over a ten year period, I truly believe that I would not be meeting the needs of my students.

Although my teaching practices and strategies have greatly evolved over the last decade, I want to focus upon one specific area: Should students be allowed to correct assignments, retake quizzes and assessments, and resubmit projects to improve their grade?  Depending upon who you ask, you might receive a variety of answers, such as:

  • “Yes, students should always have the opportunity to improve their grades.”
  • “In some cases, I would allow the students to correct assignments or retake assessments.  It really depends upon the situation.”
  • “No, students need to understand how an assignment is to be completed.  This is how it will be in high school, college, and beyond.”

Where do you fall?  What is your classroom policy?  For myself, this is one of the greatest areas in which I have grown as an educator.

The Four Critical Questions

When I originally began teaching I adopted the policy “No” policy that I listed above, mostly due to my personal experiences as a student.  Quite frankly, I cannot recall a single moment as a student where I was given the opportunity to correct an assignment, retake an assessment, or resubmit a project.  Therefore, as a new teacher, I continued with the policy that my previous teachers had set for me.  While I worked in the private school system, allowing the students these opportunities was a non-issue, since the majority of the students were high-achieving and had a high lever of parent involvement.  If I remember correctly, I believe that the lowest grade that any of my students received while I was teaching in the private school was a B-.  However, when I was hired into the public school system, I quickly realized that this policy would need to be modified to fit the needs of my public school students.

At my school site, there has always been a focus upon the “Four Critical Questions” of the PLC model:

  1. What is it we expect our students to learn?
  2. How will we know when they have learned it?
  3. How will we respond when some students do not learn?
  4. How will we respond when some students already know it?

As educators, it is very easy for us focus upon the first two questions but push the other two questions to the side.  We often focus upon what they need to know and how we will assess the students to determine if they have learned the material.  However, this is only half of the education process.  Not all students are going to be successful in learning new concepts the first time it is introduced.  What do we do to support these students that need intervention?  On the other side, some students are going to be successful and learn new concepts easily.  What do we do to support these students so that they continue to receive an education that challenging and engaging?

After reviewing these PLC questions, my policy on allowing students to improve their grade drastically changed.  I found myself thinking that there were very few reasons to not allow students the opportunity to improve their grade.  However, there were many of reasons to allow the students to have the opportunity to improve their grade by correcting assignments, assessments, and projects.  In fact, allowing the students these opportunities would perfect align with third PLC question and my plan for supporting my “intervention” students.

Therefore, I decided that I would begin allowing students to have a second chance (or even more) to improve their grade by correcting assignments, assessments, and projects.  My only stipulation was that the process for intervention must be meaningful and inquiry-based to support student learning.

Creating a Meaningful Intervention Process

After much thought, I created an intervention process for my struggling students based upon different assignments and activities, such as practice, quizzes, and tests.  The goal was to allow students the opportunity to participate in a process that would, ultimately, allow them to improve their grade.  However, by completing this process and improving their grade, they were reviewing difficult concepts and gaining a greater understanding of the material.

My “Intervention” Policies:

  • Skills Practice (aka, Homework) – All students are allowed to retake their practice problems as many times as they would like to receive the highest score possible.
    • The students are assigned their “skills” practice on Google Forms.  Through Flubaroo, the students can submit their answers and get instant feedback on their scores.  They are allowed to correct the assignment as many times as needed.  They simply need to show their original work with a separate paper for corrections.
    • If students cannot correct the practice on their own, they can join a “reteaching” group with the teacher or a “tutorial” group with students.
  • Quizzes – All students are allowed to submit their quizzes twice, as well as have the opportunity to take the “Version 2” or “Version 3” of the quiz.
    • When students submit their quizzes, they immediately receive their score but they do not get to see which ones they got incorrect.  They have the remainder of the class period to review the quiz to submit a final time.
    • If students do not receive a 70% or higher, they will complete tutorials.  Click here for the TRF Form and Checklist.  The students will complete an inquiry-based form, as well as a collaborative study group to review the problems that they missed on the quiz.  Once the tutorial process is complete, the students will use their TRF as their “ticket” to retake the quiz.
  • Unit Assessments – All students are allowed to submit their assessment twice, as well as have the opportunity to take the “Version 2” of the assessment.  The maximum they can receive on a retake Unit Assessment is an 80%.
    • When students submit their assessment, they immediately receive their score but they do not get to see which ones they got incorrect.  They have the remainder of the class period to review the assessment to submit a final time.
    • If students do not receive a 60% or higher, they will complete tutorials.  Click here for the TRF Form and Checklist.  The students will complete an inquiry-based form, as well as a collaborative study group to review the problems that they missed on the quiz.  Once the tutorial process is complete, the students will use their TRF as their “ticket” to retake the assessment.

The process can often be a struggle for students at first, since it relies heavily upon the inquiry process.  However, the intervention process has allowed students to improve and gain a greater understanding of the material.  Math is a subject where we should not move on if a student is struggling.  If we do, then they may never recover or have the opportunity to be successful.

How Has This Impacted the Students

I have been implementing (and modifying) this intervention process over the past several years in my Math classroom.  The inquiry-based process supports student achievement and the ability to interact with other students promotes student engagement.  Students understand that it is okay to fail but they will be held accountable if they want the opportunity to improve.

Back to my question: Should students be allowed to correct assignments, retake quizzes and assessments, and resubmit projects to improve their grade?

Yes. Absolutely. Without a Doubt.

Students can only learn from their mistakes if we teach them skill to understand what they did wrong.  Create a meaningful intervention process that will allow students to improve their grade but, more importantly, help them to understand their errors to gain a deeper understanding of the material.

 

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