Grades must be meaningful. The meaning that I put into grades is that they are the most recent representation of what students have demonstrated on a particular standard for that that grading period. The problem that I ran into with this meaning of grades occurred to me while assessing students on each unit with concepts that were essentially in a vacuum (meaning they were by themselves with little to no connection to other units). To circumvent this, I can came up with an assessment philosophy that assesses where students are continuously throughout the year.

How Students are Tested
Students take about 5 or 6 tests (depending on the class). Rather than the tests being unit tests, each test snowballs or accumulates off of the test before it. The tests are a continually growing assessment of present and previous concepts. The following table better explains what I mean.

Units Covered
  • Formative assessments
  • Each new test replaces the overall grade
  • Ultimately do not account for the grade
21, 2
31, 2, 3
41, 2, 3, 4
1, 2, 3, 4, 5

  • Essentially the final exam
  • Students will be given multiple attempts (in case of a bad day)
  • Final grade is based on the grade on this exam

Every tests builds itself closer and closer to the final exam. This assessment structure follows along with the constructionist approach of learning in which students use previous understanding of concepts to understand novel concepts. Not only are problems from a collection of units, but some of the individual problems are a mix of concepts from previous units.

Main highlights of this testing philosophy:
  • No averaging - grades are based on the most recent test grade
  • Tests are cumulative - no cramming for the final exam is needed as students will be expected to understand each unit as the course progresses
  • Tests 1-4 are technically formative since they do not account for any part of the final grade
  • Test 5 is basically the final exam and represents the final grade
I am interested to hear your thoughts on this process. Is anyone else doing anything similar to this? Thanks for any feedback!
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