The point is to learn, not to penalise

The purpose of this post is for teachers to reflect on how they manage deadlines, apply grades and give (or not) students the opportunity to resubmit work.

The Australian Curriculum is a standards based curriculum requiring us to assess against an Achievement Standard for each curriculum area/year level. Our learning tasks should link directly to aspects of these standards and by the end of the year (or two years for banded subjects) have given students the opportunity to show mastery of the standard. To achieve a satisfactory grade students must demonstrate “on balance” that they have achieved enough of the standard to pass, that is, achieve a C grade or higher. Through evidence supplied by the student the teacher uses their professional judgement to determine if the student passes the standard or not.

Now consider the following questions:

1. If a student does not submit a learning task (at all) do you give an E grade/0%?

2. If a student hands a task up late do you reduce the grade the student can get, for example lose 10% for everyday the task is late? 

This is not an uncommon practice particularly at a secondary level. Teachers are busy people so we set deadlines and apply penalties to encourage students to meet those deadlines so that we can assess the learning – it helps us manage our workload and day to day programming. It could also be argued that we use deadlines to teach students discipline and that in the real world they also have to meet deadlines. But consider the following:

  • If you apply and E grade (0%) for the student who does not hand up their work why do you do this? Do you apply any other grades for work unseen? For example would you give a B grade to a piece of work you had never seen? If not why would you give an E? According to the DECD A-E guide for reporting an E means:
    • Your child is demonstrating minimal achievement of what is expected at this year level – beginning capacity to apply knowledge, skills and understandings in a familiar context, beginning understanding of concepts and key ideas, initial development of skills, limited knowledge of content.

If this is what an E means then how can this grade be applied without seeing the students learning? An E or 0% will affect a students grade average which is unfair if the E is based on no actual evidence. Wouldn’t it be more accurate to record an NA against the part of the standard being assessed and wait until the student provides some evidence before assigning an A-E grade?

  • If you apply a penalty of 10% for every day a task is late is this an accurate assessment of the students knowledge and understanding? In this scenario the student may have achieved a B grade against the standard but ends up with a C grade due to late submission. Does this grade reflect the students ability or their behaviour?

Should a students assessment and reporting include late penalties or penalties for not handing in work at all? Are we accurately assessing and reporting against the standard if we also assess student behaviours alongside their knowledge and understanding? If students have issues with behaviours including organisation, meeting deadlines, work habits, attitudes and participation can’t these be covered in the section of the report that caters for these?

If a student submits no learning and continually gets NAs instead of an A-E grade then shouldn’t their final report also reflect an NA rather than an E grade?

3. Do you allow students to submit tasks that missed the deadline?

4. Do you allow students to resubmit tasks to improve their grade after the deadline has passed?

By not allowing students the chance to resubmit tasks are we discouraging learning? Does it matter how many attempts a student has to be successful in their learning? If the student wants to continue to learn and improve does the deadline stop this from happening?

We could argue that students will ‘game’ this system of re-takes and resubmissions. Knowing they have second chances allows some students to apply minimal effort during the first attempt and penalises those students who do apply effort the first time around. I would argue the penalty is applied to the student who is resubmitting. Trying to re-do a task in the their own time and keep up with the next topic/task is not easy and would require considerable motivation. The student who put in the effort initially will find managing their work load much easier.

How do I address deadlines and re-takes/resubmissions in my classroom?

Over the past year I have actively encouraged my students to resubmit work if they are unhappy with their grade or if they miss a deadline to persist and still submit the task. The following outlines what I do:

  • I have deadlines. I have consequences for not meeting those deadlines. The consequence for missing a deadline is that I require students to come in at lunch time to complete tasks. This means that when the task is finally submitted it is assessed against the standard without further penalty.
  • I tell students that if they want to resubmit a task to improve their grade they can do so at anytime before their final end of year report. If students wish to use their own time to demonstrate improvement in their learning it is my job to encourage and support this behaviour.

As mentioned above students who regularly miss deadlines have to complete their learning at lunchtime. I am still not as consistent as I need to be with this as other things get in the way. Lunchtime sports, yard duties, wanting to have your lunch in peace and quiet etc are all things that get in the way of this process. I apply it as best I can.

I don’t give an E grade to a student who fails to submit a piece of work I write NA in my marks book. If a student does not submit any evidence I cannot accurately gauge their level of knowledge and understanding to apply any grade. If students in my class continue to get NAs for tasks then their final report will also reflect an NA. This means that there was not enough evidence to assess the student and apply an A-E grade against the standard. It also means that the student did not meet the Achievement Standard for that subject/year level.

Resubmission is open to everyone, not just those who get Ds and Es. If a student gets a B+ or an A then they can also resubmit to improve their grade.

Do many students take up the chance to resubmit tasks? No. I don’t see this as a reason to change my practice though. During 2017 I had a few students take up the offer of resubmitting tasks because it would impact on their final grade. They demonstrated a motivation to improve and used their own time to re-do their work. This is a practice I want to encourage.

Teachers might say they have always been willing to accept a resubmitted piece of work but how many actively promote and encourage this idea with students? Do your students know this is an option?

How re-dos, retakes, resubmissions (whatever you want to call them) and deadlines work in one teachers class is not going to be the same as what works in another teachers classroom. The subject specific curriculum, the teachers workload, the teachers personal beliefs and school policies among other things will impact on what a teacher can or wants to do in relation to these issues.


Professional reading from Facebook and Twitter Part 13

Reading number 1

Source: You Tube

You Tube Video: How you can be good at math, and other surprising facts about learning | Jo Boaler

Posted on Twitter by  @TurraNick

Reading number 2

Blog: Teacher Solutions

Blog post: To Mark or not to Mark, that is the question

Posted on Facebook by  Karen Cornelius in the group Share Network for the Australian Curriculum, SA – SNAC SA

Reading number 3

Blog: Global Digital Citizen Foundation

Blog post: Giving Student Feedback: 7 Best Practices for Success

Posted on Facebook by  Brenton Wilson in the group TfEL Teachers’ Companion

Planning for assessment of and for student learning

How we design our assessment tasks determines the quality of information we get back from our students. In turn, this impacts on how well we can then move our students forward and assess and report on student achievement to parents. Planning for assessment of and for student learning is a key part of the Learning Design process.

Learning Design

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When planning for assessment of and for learning we need to consider what strategies we will use to allow students to demonstrate their learning.

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Note: Formative assessment (assessment for learning) is any assessment used at the beginning of and during instruction to check student understanding with the purpose of moving students learning forward. Formative assessment includes self assessment and peer assessment practices. Summative assessment is any assesment that is used to make a final judgement or assign a grade for the purpose of reporting student performance to parents.

We need to ensure that our formative and summative assessment tasks:

  • Allow us to identify the next step in the learning process.
  • Allow students to present learning in different ways.
  • Allow students to present their learning in a way that supports them. For example, a drawing, video or audio explanation may be more appropriate than a written explanation for a student with low-level writing skills.
  • Directly connect with the verbs in the achievement standard. For example, if students are required to “identify and select a range of sources” then the task must provide the opportunity to do this.
  • Allow students to achieve the Standard at an ABOVE level (A or B grade). Closed tasks, like T or F and multiple choice, may be appropriate at times but can limit students ability to deeply explain concepts and show learning at a higher level.
  • Engage students through connections with their own lives and interests where possible (easier said than done).
  • Challenge students to not just find and repeat facts but to analyse, debate, create, evaluate and apply their knowledge to demonstrate understanding.

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Finally, the support we provide students to apply their knowledge and understanding is critical. The environment we create in our classrooms to support student learning goes a long way to determining the depth and level of knowledge students are able to demonstrate.

"The purpose of assessment is to improve learning, inform teaching, help students achieve the highest standards they can and provide meaningful reports on students’achievement." ACT Government Education & Training

To access online professional development in the area of Assessment for Learning click HERE.


Leading learning – Making the curriculum work for us

ACT Teachers Guide to Assessment


Re-Assessing Assessment

The Centre for Education Statistics Evaluation has released a report on Re-assessing Assessment.

What gives assessment a bad name? What is effective assessment? And what innovative tools are making assessment more effective? This paper examines developments in assessment around the world, and highlights cases of innovation and best practice.

Re-assessing Assessment, 2015

 Image source: Virtual team builders

The flaws in testing Poetry

The following is an article titled Dear Ms Morgan: Your guidance is a mini syllabus on how to wreck poetry from The Guardian website written by Michael Rosen.

The main point raised in the article is around large scale testing requiring one right answer. There is no scope for imagination or thinking in a different way. We can’t have a range of correct answers, how would markers (human or computer) ever agree upon what was correct!

In the UK the Standards and Testing Agency produce National Curriculum Assessments (think NAPLAN). This test assesses the new UK ‘National Curriculum’ for the first time in 2016. If interested you can view the Key Stage 1 English Reading test here.

Dear Ms Morgan: Your guidance is a mini syllabus on how to wreck poetry

written by Michael Rosen

Along with many other poets, I receive many invites to go into schools to share my poetry with pupils, to talk about how and why we write and read poems. I’ve been doing this since 1974. We think it’s a good idea because teachers, children and poets value poetry. If you put a group of poets, teachers, pupils and parents in a room to talk about why we do this, we come up with a wide range of answers. Here are some I’ve collected: it’s a good way to open up conversations about our lives, experiences and feelings; poetry often uses the sound of words to express feelings without actually saying what those feelings are; it’s a good way to express “big ideas in small spaces”; suggest things without necessarily coming to a conclusion; express a single moment without necessarily relating the consequences; play with language without it having to be literal; confess things about our lives; soap-box about our beliefs; express identity and culture; and, because it “borrows” voices from a wide range of sources (including poetry itself), it has an infectious quality that enables many of us to imitate it, parody it, learn it and play with it. We are able to do all this without any direction from on high. We just do it.

What messages about poetry does this guidance give? That we read a poem in order to “retrieve” exact information from it
Now, though, there’s an official view of what poetry is for: “Standards and Testing Agency, Key stage 1 English reading, sample questions, marks schemes and commentary for 2016 assessment”. Here we find Where Go the Boats? by Robert Louis Stevenson, followed by eight questions, their correct answers – that’s to say, the only answers that are allowed, and a commentary to explain what’s being tested. This will lay down the activities of thousands of teachers, children and parents between now and May 2016. Thousands of hours of school – and homework – time will be focused on these correct answers. It’s no use you, or any Ofsted report, telling us that it’s only bad teachers who teach to the test. Because of your system of enforced conversion to academy status on the basis of schools not scoring high enough on tests, schools will teach to the test. Inevitably, this test will enforce what reading poetry is about and what it’s for and that doesn’t coincide very much with what poets and people interested in poetry have to say about it.

What messages about poetry does this guidance give, then?

First, we discover that we read a poem in order to “retrieve” exact and correct information from it, and we are supposed to “infer” exact and correct meanings from it. This means that it’s not for speculation, interpretation, or for making a connection between the reader and the poem at the level of empathy – that is, sharing our thoughts and feelings. Instead, a poem is a chunk of language to be used for purposes seen as important by government-hired experts. It’s irrelevant whether these have anything to do with what poets try to do, but then who cares if this test runs counter to what poets think?

The “commentary” refers to pupils having to identify rhyming words and “simple literary language”. The example given is the phrase “on either hand”. But this is not literary, it’s a common everyday oral metaphor. Spotting rhyming words is a way of turning rhyming poems into train-spotting, the great advantage for examiners being that there are only right and wrong answers. It has the disadvantage of separating rhyme off from everything else a poem does in order to make the rhyme work – rather as if the only thing we notice about a game of football is the goalscorer. And it will set in motion thousands of hours of rhyme-spotting lessons, so defining poetry falsely for thousands of people between now and the test.

One question asks the pupils to “find and copy the line that tells you that the poet is not sure where the boats will end up”. There is of course only one correct answer: “Where will all come home?” In fact, I spotted another couple of lines that suggest being not sure. Meanwhile, the examiner hasn’t noticed that it’s not “the poet” who is in this poem, it’s a child who is playing with boats. That’s how many poems work. Welcome to literary language, Mr/Ms Examiner.

A further question asks: “What would be another good title for the poem?”. There are four possibles and you’re only allowed to pick one. This is a gross distortion of the poetry-game that some of us play, where we do indeed invite children to come up with alternative titles as a way of talking about possible and interesting interpretations, not one correct one out of four.

The final roadcrash comes with “Why does Robert Louis Stevenson use a question for the title of this poem?” There are of course many possibilities here – including the entirely legitimate answer, “we don’t know” – but the only ones allowed must include the idea that the poem gives “answers” (really?) or that the poet (!) doesn’t know where the boats will turn up. If I had written, “because a lot of poems eg Who killed Cock Robin? begin with questions”, I would have been wrong. So, what we have here is a mini-syllabus in how to wreck poetry for five- to eight-year-olds. Thank you, Ms Morgan.


iPads as learning journals

During our week 8 term 3 student free day we discussed ways in which to collect and store evidence of student learning. One of these was the idea of using the iPad as a Learning Journal in particular for practical subjects. PE, Food Tech, Art, Science and Technology are all areas that could benefit from this type of learning journal. This is not to say other areas would not benefit but practical areas lend themselves to recording evidence of learning through photos and video.

The example below is a learning journal for Year 9/10 PE (Volleyball). A simple explanation of this journal is that it provides task outlines, success criteria , images and video that support those criteria and spaces for students to insert video and text explaining their learning. I have also created one for my 7/8 Badminton class.

Of course there are hurdles to over come to make this work.

  • Students need access to the same iPad, not every lesson but on a regular basis during the term.
  • The teacher has to create the learning journal in Book Creator and Airdrop (or FileBrowser) it to Book Creator on all student iPads .
  • Students need time in lessons to complete journal work (hwk not possible using school iPad).
  • Students need the opportunity to back up their journal on a regular basis to their student folder using File Browser incase their book is erased (accidentally or intentionally).
  • Students will need assistance and scaffolding to help them use apps like Book Creator and iMovie as well as any other app that might be used to create content for the journal i.e. Popplet and Explain Everything.

Once students have completed their journal the easiest way to hand it up is to Airdrop it to the teachers iPad (teacher opens in iBooks). This could potentially cause another issue as so many journals containing video will require a certain number of Gigabytes of free space on the teachers iPad. However if this is not a problem then the teacher now has access to all the students journals in their iBooks app.

Note: Students should also upload a copy of the ePub file to their student folder using the File Browser app. This allows the book to be deleted from the student and teacher iPads in the future while still providing access to it if needed i.e. a parent teacher interview.

It will be interesting to see how this process works. It is the first time I have tried it on a large scale (46 students across two classes).

Update November 2014 – A completed student journal

Promethean IWB Activote and Socrative – Student Response Systems

Promethean IWB ActiVote

Collecting feedback from students regularly (daily) and in a way that allows a teacher to see areas of weakness across a class or with individual students is important if we are to move student learning forward. At PBAS Paul has set up and is using the ActiVote devices with his Year 5/6 class to get feedback from the students about how well they have understood concepts he is teaching.

ActiVote Devices – The quote below has been taken from the Promethean website.

“With ActiVote, you won’t have to guess whether students truly grasp the lesson content. The entire class clicks to respond and answers are instantly viewed, shared and discussed on the ActivBoard in simple  formats, such as bar graphs and pie charts. Gain insight into student progress and use real-time feedback to determine whether you need to review, re-teach or proceed with the remainder of lesson. Students build confidence with every vote, while evaluating their own progress through both instant feedback and achievement records tallied over time.”

As with most technology understanding how it can be applied and setting it up so that it consistently works can prove challenging. Paul has had to persist and overcome a number of hurdles to get his ActiVote devices working but now that they are he is very pleased with the results. Having overcome the initial problems Paul has a set of ActiVote devices for his classroom set up so that each student knows their device and can quickly access it. Paul can display questions, the students can respond and the data can be displayed immediately in a number of formats (selected by Paul). The data can also easily be saved to an Excel document for further analysis.

One example Paul provided me with was his use of the ActiVote devices in a maths class. Students had covered a concept and Paul wanted to see what gaps in student knowledge remained. He designed a series of questions for the concept and had students provide their answers using the ActiVote devices. He found that for the majority of questions about 95% of the class understood. There were a number of questions however where 75% of the class struggled, providing Paul with an easy and quick way of seeing what needed to be revised. This use of the ActiVote devices is much more time efficient for Paul when compared with collecting up each students homework contract and marking all students attempts at similar maths problems to find out the same information. Obviously question design is critical when using these devices and multiple choice questions have their limitations so understanding and continuing to use other methods of formative assessment is also important.

The benefit to PBAS of Paul’s hard work getting his ActiVote devices up and running is that we now have a great resource to draw on if others wish to use the same technology. I know that Paul is currently working closely with Jackie and her 3/4 class to set up the devices in that room.

Below is an image of the Activote devices. Below the image is a video which is quite old now but will give you an idea of the ActiVote devices and how they work.




Socrative is an online student response system that is exceptionally easy to use if you have a access to the internet and students have access to a device (laptop, PC, iPad). At PBAS I see this as a great tool to use with the 9/10 class as they all have access to their MacBook. With the immediate access our Year 9/10 students have to MacBooks Socrative becomes a very effective formative feedback tool for teachers to use.

To set up Socrative the teacher needs to create an account (students do not need accounts) and once logged in can create quizzes and exit tickets (multiple choice, True/False and short answer options are available).

When the teacher is ready to give a quiz they get students to log in by going to, click on Student Log In and enter the teachers Room number (mine is 83286 which you can see in the image below). Once students are in they will see the quiz and can begin. As well as quizzes teachers can generate Quick Questions (instant feedback on something just discussed) or Exit Tickets (answer prior to leaving the room).

Teachers can also choose what type of quiz they want students to undertake. Options include Student Paced with immediate feedback – students will see the correct answer or teacher explanation straight after answering the question, Teacher Paced – teacher controls the flow of questions.

Socrative allows the teacher to turn a quiz into a game called Space Race. The teacher can choose the number of teams, auto assign or have students pick colors, then student paced answering of questions determines how “fast” each spaceship proceeds.

See the video at the bottom of the post for further explanation of how Socrative works. The video gives a example of the teacher and student devices working side by side showing what is happening on each.

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Assessment For, As and Of Learning

Detailed learning design1

Box four in the Learning Design Framework asks us to consider: What evidence will enable us to assess the intended learning? To do this effectively we need to have a solid understanding of different types of assessments and their purpose. To assess effectively we need to ensure that we collect a range of assessment types and that we are giving students multiple opportunities to demonstrate their learning of a concept.

Assessment For, As and Of learning helps us to determine the purpose of assessment.

View the presentation and video and then answer the questions below in the comments section of this post.

Presentation on Assessment For, As and Of Learning

Dylan Wiliam – Assessment For Learning (formative learning)

Staff activity

1. Think of an activity that you have done with your students and briefly explain this activity/task/concept (1-2 sentences)

2. Consider and then list the “Types of Evidence” that you have (or will have) collected to assess this activity/task/concept.

3. What has been the purpose of the assessment? Assessment For, Of and As learning. Have you covered more than one assessment purpose?

4. Do you focus on one type of assessment more than another ie most of my assessment falls into the Assessment For and Of Learning with less in the Assessment As Learning.  I need to try and get my students considering how they learn and assist them to self reflect and question what they are learning.

5. How do you collect and build a picture of student learning? Do you use a take home book with work samples, a portfolio folder, a digital portfolio, a filing cabinet containing work samples etc?

Who will pack your parachute?


I have stolen the title of this post from the person who wrote the post I am about to redirect you to. This post challenges percentage based grades and the way in which we present them to parents v skills based reporting. I thought that the example used in the post about assessing someone packing a parachute and averaging their grades was an interesting one.

Do the use of grades and percentages take focus away from what students can and can’t do? Does the grade take the focus away from the importance of the written feedback? I have heard of a school that sends home report comments first and then the grades a week later so that focus is on the students strengths and weaknesses rather than a single grade.

What do you think of the the following post by @cherraolthof (a teacher in Alberta, Canada)? Do you agree with the sentiment of the article? It would be great to hear what teachers think about the views expressed in this post. To read the post click here.

Explaining ‘New Contexts’ at a C level

A few things about the Australian Curriculum have generated healthy discussion but certainly non more so (at PBAS at least) than the wording around students achieving a C grade. If you are not sure of the terminology you are supposed to use to determine grades then here it is:


High level capacity to apply knowledge, skills and understandings in new contexts. Deep understanding of concepts and key ideas and connections between them outstanding development of skills. Comprehensive knowledge of content.


Strong capacity to apply knowledge, skills and understandings in new contexts. Some depth of understanding of concepts and key ideas high level development of skills. Thorough knowledge of content.


Capacity to apply knowledge, skills and understandings in new contexts. Sound understanding of concepts and key ideas sound development of skills. Adequate knowledge of content.


Capacity to apply knowledge, skills and understandings in familiar contexts. Some understanding of concepts and key ideas some development of skills. Basic knowledge of content.


Beginning capacity to apply knowledge, skills and understandings in a familiar context. Beginning understanding of concepts and key ideas. Initial development of skills limited knowledge of content.

The term ‘new context’ has been used at a C level. This wording has not been a part of our grading structure before and has prompted some people to make blanket emotional statements like, ‘no child in South Australia will achieve above a D grade because they cannot apply their learning in a new context’. As a teacher I don’t understand why this would be the case. As part of good teaching we often get students to apply knowledge at a different time to when it was originally learnt and in a different context. It happens all the time in Physical Education. For example students develop the fundamental motor skill throwing and then apply that skill to bowling in cricket or pitching in softball. Both are very different contexts and therefore require the student to demonstrate the capacity to apply knowledge, skills and understandings in new contexts. Transference of skills happens all the time in our classrooms. We just have to recognise when this happens as part of our assessment of students.

The flyer passed on to us by Denise (email 7.6.12 ‘Explaining ‘new contexts’ at ‘C’ level in the DECD Reporting Resource’) gives some examples of what ‘new context’ means. Here are two of those examples:

In Year 5 science, for instance, students are asked to classify substances according to their observable properties and behaviours. If the original learning occurred in relation to natural substances, the ability to apply classification processes to manufactured substances would constitute applying this learning ‘in new contexts’.

‘In Year 1 mathematics, students are asked to continue simple patterns involving numbers and objects. If the original learning occurred in the mathematics classroom with manipulatives, the ability to apply patterning processes in music will constitute applying learning in a new context.’

I would be interested to hear from staff whether or not these examples help with the question can I give a ‘D’ or a ‘C’ for the students understanding of a particular concept.