Although many of my educational philosophies are unique (and often unpopular, though not without sound research to back them up), this one is a bit more mainstream: corrections. Most teachers I know and have worked with allow corrections of some sort in at least some capacity. My version is broader than most, though, but here’s why.
First of all, if you don’t allow corrections on assignments (any assignments: homework, classwork, tests, quizzes, etc.), think about why you don’t. I (and the other teachers who do this) allow corrections because it facilitates learning. What good is it to get something wrong if you don’t figure out why and correct it? Failing a test doesn’t teach a student anything. It shows, in fact, that the student needs more instruction. This goes for every assignment. By not allowing corrections, or some form of redoing the work, whether it’s the original assignment or an alternate assignment, it devalues the assignment itself and the skill it’s assessing.
Let’s say you either already allow corrections, or want to, or I’ve now convinced you to, but you’re not sure how best to implement this policy. Many teachers I know only allow corrections on homework, or only on tests, or some restriction regarding the assignment. I, however, allow corrections on everything. Why? See the preceding paragraph. I don’t assign busy work, and I find that corrections give an assignment value. It also improves students’ self-image and motivation to know that a failing grade need not be permanent.
So, now you’ve decided to allow your students to correct all assignments. How do you grade those corrections? Many teachers I know only allow students to correct work that scores below a certain score. Some set it at the failing mark. Some set it at a “C.” I, however, allow students to correct anything that isn’t a 100%. Why? Because failure means different things to different people. For some, a 50% is failing, but a 75% is awesome. For others, an 85% is failing and a 95% is acceptable. I don’t think it’s fair to tell students what their expectations for themselves should be. If I want to let students correct failed assignments, I should honor each student’s definition of “fail.” Not to mention, this helps a LOT when a parent’s definition of “fail” doesn’t match the student’s. If you haven’t gotten the, “My student ONLY has a 97%, how can s/he raise it?” phone call…you will. Just wait. If you allow students to correct ALL assignments no matter the grade, you have that in your pocket when a parent questions a student’s grade. Then it becomes their job to monitor the student taking advantage of all opportunities to improve his/her grade, and not yours.
Now for the actual grading part. The majority of teachers I know who allow corrections count them as half credit. I’m not completely against this school of thought, but I would like to offer what I do as a counter. I give full credit for all corrections on any assignment that isn’t an assessment. So, all classwork, homework, etc. can be corrected until a student’s score is 100%. Why do I do that? Two simple reasons: it demonstrates that the assignment and the skill have value, and it is a CYA for failing students when parents or administration question a student’s grades. You might think that it would discourage students from trying their best the first time around. And yes, while this does happen with some students, by and large, the majority of students don’t use this policy as an excuse to slack off. As with most of my policies (see my entries on open-notes testing and accepting late work), I find that this helps the students who have extremely high standards for themselves and it also helps the students who are truly struggling but really want to improve. The super lazy kids are going to be lazy, no matter how many avenues to success they have available. But everyone else really benefits from these policies and they don’t use them as excuses to give less than their best.
The exception to my full credit for corrections policy is assessments. I allow students to correct assessments, but only for half credit. This is akin to the more common practice of allowing a student to retake a test or take an alternate version of the test and averaging the scores. I prefer to use my time in other ways, so I don’t make multiple versions of assessments. Instead, I encourage students to correct the assessment they took, but receive half credit for the correction. It serves the same purpose as the full-credit corrections of the other assignments but does prevent what would rapidly become a pervasive problem of half-assing it (as it were) the first time around.
You’ve decided to give allowing corrections a try! Great! Now, I’ll save you some trial and error for what works best (or at least better). Some tips for allowing corrections:
- Let students do the corrections on their own time. Don’t do them together in class, and don’t set aside specific class time to allow corrections. Make students make corrections a priority in their own lives.
- Only accept corrections that are done in pen (or a different color pen if the original assignment was done in pen). This saves you SOOO much time from having to hunt to find the correction. If you’re worried about space, this can be achieved by requiring students to submit their corrections on a separate piece of paper with the original assessment.
- Require students to leave their original answers. You, as the teacher, want to see that the student has corrected the error. If the student erases the original answer, that progress is lost.
If you have any other tips, please share them!