Are We Just Inflating (or deflating) Students’ Grades by Including Behavior?

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It is THAT time of year again and I feel as conflicted as ever.

The high-school where I work has a policy that student-like behavior is worth 20% of the semester’s grade.

The policy is that the goal of the school is education in the broad sense and a student should be rewarded (or penalized, as the case may be) for behaviors related to coming to class on time, bringing the required materials, participating in the lesson and general attitude toward studying (trying hard means a lot, even if the student is weak).

However, the grades are looked as an indicator of how well the students are doing and which level of leaving exams (matriculation) they should be taking.

I can’t honestly say these grades realistically reflect the students’ level of English with the 20% factored in.

What is the policy in your school?

8 thoughts on “Are We Just Inflating (or deflating) Students’ Grades by Including Behavior?”

  1. I’m not sure if you’re suggesting your 20% is inflating or deflating your students’ grades, but in my case, last year, we had 20% for attendance and participation in one class. They idea was that since they were second language learners (and Chinese), they’d be very quiet and we wanted to encourage participation. Then by the end of the semester, we realised that everyone came to each class and many of the weaker students on assignments participated the most in class, thus awarding them close to 20% for this. Mistake. Students whose level should have been indicated by a 60% ended up with close to an A instead. We’ve since changed the grading and now are having the opposite problem, at least with regard to attendance.

  2. Tyson,
    I see you know first hand how complicated it gets when you add factors to a grade supposed to portray langauge proficiency!
    I can easily take both sides of the argument here – feel very conflicted!

  3. Well, to be fair, our grades represent how well students will succeed in a full 1st year courseload, which includes a mixture of language proficiency, behaviour and responsibility.

  4. At some point we have to be honest about what school is for… is it for the ‘proper’ socialization of new workers into the workforce, or is it about teaching subjects that should be useful in their adult life, or… probably a mixture.

    Participation has always been the ‘behavior’ part of my grading and it’s normally encouraged by the school. I typically don’t pay it much attention and only give lower grades to students who simply didn’t come to class. The catch is when their English is actually better than some of those who do come to class… so is it evaluation of their abilities or of their growth/performance while in class.

    I’m starting to lean away from having this grade built into class, especially with adult students. If they don’t want to be there, or to participate at their age, is that where we should be concentrating our efforts ?

    Thanks for the post, Naomi !

  5. Agreed Brad. If it’s adult language classes, it shouldn’t be our responsibility to penalise their choices. It’s not like language classes are meant to teach behaviour patterns, unless perhaps it affects office culture dynamics.

  6. I can see what you both mean, Tyson and Brad, about adults. But with kids it so much more complex. I also feel that the situation is worse in an English class (though a history teacher might argue the point) because of the issue of having a natural talent for languages. You have the sweet kid who comes every lesson, participates, tries really hard, but wasn’t endowed with the sharpest of minds (to put it politely) while other kids don’t work half as hard but their level of English is far better. Is adding behavior into the grade the way to recognize the sweet kid’s effort? Tricky…

  7. I think it’s both a way to reward and penalize. Maybe it is built in to buffer the sweet kids, but in general I think it’s just a way for the teacher to have that extra ounce of control, authority, as well as to encourage students to participate more actively if they know it has an impact on their grade. With adults this shouldn’t be necessary.

    Merci 4 the thought-provoking post, Naomi (and Ty for the convo).

    1. Thanks for taking the time to debate it with me – it is grading time here and the topic is certainly bugging me!

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