I’m sure one of the first questions I would ask of someone attempting to persuade me to use a new teaching method would be, “Now, how do you grade this?”
Here’s basically what I do.
I use a rubric with 10 categories, fashioned on samples from other teachers. As inspiration for my rubric, I especially like Jody Rice’s Round Table Expectations.
I currently teach with 48 minute class periods. A typical class period with a discussion will look as follows:
- 5-8 minutes: announcements, minilesson, relevant information on the day’s readings
- 35-40 minutes: the students discuss
- 3-5 minutes: observing students partner with the one or two classmates they observed to share their observations
During those last few minutes of the class period, while the students are conferring about the feedback from the observers, I refer to the transcript from the discussion to quickly fill out the 100 point rubric.
In general, everyone who discusses receives the same grade. I consider this initial grade to be a sort of base grade. If a student was an average participant, she will receive the grade on the rubric. If she was incredibly prepared and actively promoted the flow of conversation, I will grant a higher grade than the base. Similarly, if a student does not participate or is obviously not prepared, I will grant a lower grade than the base.
The observing students will receive a grade based on their written observations during discussion. I am in the midst of preparing a holistic grading scale with detailed explanations of each scale score. I use a version of the AP English Literature Exam 1-9 essay rubric, but any holistic scale will work here. If I were teaching in a class with a state assessment, I might adapt the rubric for that assessment to create descriptors for each scale score.
I’d love to hear any other ideas you have for grading Harkness discussions. Let me know what you’ve tried!