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.


What are the connections between physical activity and learning?

Teachers generally acknowledge there are benefits of allowing our students to be physically active. To varying degrees we understand there are physical, mental and social benefits provided by physical activity but what about the contribution physical activity can make to our ability to learn?

Dr Nick Riley from the University of Newcastle explains the link between physical activity and academic performance in students.

A small Dutch study showed that students involved in maths and language lessons that also incorporated physical movement during those lessons outperformed students who did no physical activity during lessons. This improvement was seen in maths and spelling but not in reading.

The Guardian (Australian) website recently published an article discussing how physical activity can contribute to academic improvement.

The Western Australian Department of Sport and Recreation commissioned a review of the literature examining the relationship between participation in organised sport or physical activity and academic achievement. An article in 2010 (updated 2015) by Dr Karen Martin from the The University of Western Australia outlines the positive impact of physical activity on student cognitive function. These benefits included:

  • Improving memory
  • Behaviour
  • Concentration
  • Academic achievement

“The W.A. Department of Sport and Recreation review concluded that encouraging participation in organised sport or other strategies to increase children’s physical activity opportunities could result in improved health and academic outcomes.”

There are a number of traditional ways that schools provide opportunities to be active at school.

  • Recess and lunch – this does not garuntee all students are involved in physical activity but at least they have to get out of their seats.
  • Lunch time sports – for a select few the intensity and amount of activity on those days increases dramatically.
  • Physical education – regular physical activity approximately twice a week.

How though do we get students to be active at other times? What about those subjects where students traditionally sit for 50 minutes at a time?

Physical activity as part of a students school day is important and something we should take into account to improve our students ability to learn.

What are your super powers?

Recently I started following the Facebook group  TfEL Teacher Companion which provides great articles and ideas around teaching and learning. If you are on Facebook it is worth following.

Today I found a great idea shared by Tamara Waye around how she used a super hero theme to encourage students to think about their ‘learning super power’ and their ‘learning kryptonite’. A great way to get students to think about their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to learning.

superhero superhero1 superhero2

Ken Robinson: How to escape educations death valley

Ken Robinson’s talks are always entertaining and thought provoking. Watch this TED Talk in which Ken Robinson discusses the following topics:

  • Disengagement
  • Children are diverse
  • Education focuses on a narrow spectrum
  • ADHD
  • Broad curriculum
  • Curiosity
  • A creative profession
  • Standardised testing
  • Creativity is important
  • Individualise teaching and learning
  • Engage students
  • Teachers need discretion and autonomy

Just Google it!


It is now one of the most common things that we get our students to do, a Google search. It is certainly not uncommon to hear the phrase “Just Google it” as part of our everyday language. It is the most common search engine that our students use (although there are many others) and for something that is so commonly used in schools you would expect that teachers and students would be fluent in its use. Do we know how to access the full power of the Google search engine? For me the answer is no.

As part of my own professional development I have started listening to pod casts from The EdTechCrew. Listening to my first pod cast by these guys I heard them talking about free online courses around how to use Google search which, considering how often I use this tool, sounded really interesting. So after a quick search on You Tube I was able to find a range of videos made for one of these courses. I have put a selection of these videos on the blog, see the page titled ‘Google Search Lessons for Teachers’ at the top of the blog.

The videos range from 5-10 minutes and do not necessarily have to be viewed in order (although recommend videos 7, 8 & 9 are). If you don’t want or think you will get to all of these videos then I recommend videos 1, 4, 10, 11, 12. Learn how to filter images by colour & why this might be useful. Learn how to find specific text on a web page full of writing (without reading it). Learn how to use an image instead of text to find information – drag an image from your desk top into Google search and find out where it originated. This is one that really surprised me, you can even take a photo of an object and use that to create a search! Learn how to narrow a search by time and date or view the web at a point in time by filtering out anything prior or after a specific time. Finally video 12 will show you how to translate web pages written in other languages into English. Great for students wanting to get perspectives from non English speaking countries.


Interested in pod casts?


Pod casts (audio/video) – Get the podcast app on your iPhone/iPad/iPod and then through the app you can access pod casts to download onto your device to listen to at a later time.


What is 21st Century Learning?

The following video helps to describe what it is to be a learner in the 21st Century. The video highlights some shifts in focus which are perhaps more valued now in education than they were for the majority of the 20th Century. This is not meant to be a definitive list just a chance for you to consider how you teach your children, and what your classroom looks like in relation to the things listed and mentioned in the video.

  • Love of embracing change
  • Curiosity and a questioning disposition
  • Collaboration
  • Being reflective
  • Technology and specifically the impact of mobile technology
  • Skills for creativity.
  • Change of focus from students consuming content to students creating content using new media technology.
  • Learning happens everywhere. Traditional school strucutres and timetables are slowly changing to be more flexible in a world where we can communicate anywhere any time.

How do I use my iPad/iPhone to make my job easier?

 There are a range of ways that I use my iPad to help in my role as a teacher. I cannot think of a device that has had a bigger impact on the way I work and learn as a teacher.

Calendar  app

I no longer have a paper diary. The Calendar app allows me to put in my timetable, notes for lessons, set reminders and then access this calendar across multiple devices including my iPad, iPhone and online if my iPad/iPhone are not available.

SkyDrive, Drop Box, Google Drive apps

Using these apps on my iPad gives me access to my files on a mobile device. No longer do I need my lap top with me to work on Word, Excel or PowerPoint presentation. Cloud based storage is convenient and to a large degree free! I have 3 accounts providing me with a total of 14GB of free storage. This is not huge but certainly allows me to manage my work documents and important information that I access on a regular basis. Being able to move documents from these apps into other apps on the iPad including Pages, Keynote and Quick Office Pro and then back again is an excellent function.

Educreations and Explain Everything apps

These white board apps allow me to create presentations to upload to the Internet or capture lessons live. Capturing lessons live then uploading them for students who were absent for that lesson is very useful. By giving students the links to these they can revisit information or catch up on information they missed. They are also good tools for students to create on.

iCabMobile app

This app is web browser and allows me to download video directly to my iPad. Unfortunately it no longer does it from You Tube (Apple won’t allow it) but it does from pretty much any other site using HTML5 video including sites like Daily Motion and Vimeo. This has short cut a process of downloading video on my laptop, putting it into a folder and syncing that folder to my iPad. The types of videos that I download are generally skills based to use in apps like Ubersense and Coaches Eye.

Easy Portfolio, Easy Assessment and Attendance apps

All of my attendance is done on the iPad and emailed so that the school can keep it on file. The ‘Easy’ apps allow me to have digital portfolios for each of my students which include video, photos, notes, urls, audio and documents. I can also create rubrics which can easily be used on the spot during lessons which allow me to attach notes, photo and video to those rubrics. Having all my students assessment data in one place is very useful.

Twitter/Facebook apps

These are technically things that can be done without an iPhone or iPad. Would I use them as effectively or as much without an iPad? The answer is no. As with many things the iPad makes them easier, quicker and more efficient. The portability of the iPad for a start means I have it with me all the time.

I use Facebook to communicate with my Stage 1 and Stage 2 PE classes. I provide resources from documents to videos, reminders about due dates, change of plans regarding prac and theory lessons, students can upload drafts of work and I can send it back to them the same way and it allows students to pose questions they are stuck on when doing hwk or leading into a test or exam.

I use Twitter for professional development. I have said it before in other posts and I’ll say it again – It is the best ongoing training and development that I get! I follow just over 400 educators.. The ideas and resources that are shared on Twitter are enormous. You follow who you want so that the information you get relates to topics you are interested in. For example a high percentage of the people I follow around the world are PE teachers, they provide me with thoughts and ideas on pedagogy and resources that I never would have considered had I not connected with them.

Class Dojo app

Class Dojo is a behaviour tracking app. You create your classes then enter your behaviours (positive & negative) that you want to monitor. This does not have to be the traditional behaviours like being on task, getting changed for PE, helping set up equipment etc. It could be that a JP teacher wants to track how a student forms letters, it could help you track any behaviour or skill! I use it with all my classes R-10 to track student behaviour but I have not used it to its full potential just yet. The data can be emailed to parents (or any email address you put in). Currently I am thinking of emailing it directly to my older students so they can see the type of data I am keeping on them. For the younger students it will help inform my discussions with them as well as their parents. It does need an internet connection to work and all data is uploaded to an online teacher account. I use my iPhone in PE as this is the only internet connection I have on the oval or in the hall. The phone is also excellent because of its size, it allows me to enter data quickly and then put it back in my pocket.

Note: The creation of classes and behaviours is done online in a teacher account on a PC (cannot be done on the iPad app). The iPad app is then used to collect the data during a lesson.

Music app

This app on allows me to stream music wirelessly in the hall from my iPad and iPhone through the Apple TV. I use music in the JP classes to initiate the beginning and end of some activities. To be able to do this while with the students and not have to run back to the stereo everytime I want to start or stop the music is excellent.

Notes app

This app allows me to take notes in staff meetings and at training and development days. I can keep the notes in the app or email them off the iPad.

Contacts app

This is not new as mobile phones have always had contact lists. However having my contact list on my phone and synced to my iPad is great.

Camera app/Dropvox app

Recording work samples and student learning through images, audio or video is a powerful way to help teachers assess students and ultimately provide more effective feedback about learning. I also use the camera and iMovie to create video to share with parents what is happening in their child’s PE classroom. Dropvox allows me to record audio and upload automatically to Dropbox. Great for recording conferencing processes with students.



Why school? Post 2

I was going to do a series of 3-4 posts about the eBook Why schools? by Will Richardson. See Why school? Post 1 If you haven’t seen this post or viewed the video in it I suggest you go back and view it before you view the video below.

I no longer have to do a series of posts because I have found a video of Will Richardson presenting at TEDxMelbourne, recorded only two months ago. The talk encapsulates his book Why schools? Hence the reason why I don’t need to do any more posts on it.

Valmai spoke to me about the key message she picked up from the first post which again is reinforced in this video, “we don’t have to do school better we have to do it differently”.

If I had to choose one video to watch from the wide range posted on this blog during 2012 this would be it.


Why school? Post 1

This will be the first in a series of posts based on the book Why school? by Will Richardson. If your interested it can be downloaded from Amazon to your Kindle or iPad Kindle app for $2.04 (at the moment). The reason for bringing this book to your attention and discussing it in further posts is to generate discussion on a topic that is current.

I came across the book Why school? on Twitter, it is an easy read and raises many questions about our students learning in 2012 and beyond. Its main premise is that teachers, knowledge, learning and getting an education are no longer scarce commodities that can only really be accessed through institutions but are now abundantly available thanks to the Internet.

“Today if we have an Internet connection , we have at our finger tip, on-demand access to an amazing library that holds close to the sum of human knowledge and, equally important, to more than two billion people with whom we can potentially learn.” Will Richardson, Why school?

The author does acknowledge that the Internet is not without its issues, both in equity and as a place that is difficult to navigate, “It can be overwhelming, distracting, nonsensical, and at times frightening.” He also sees schools as important places, “I believe there remains a great deal of value in the idea of a school as a place our kids go to learn with others, to be inspired by caring adults………..Communities built around schools are better for it.”

This video is a good introduction to Will Richardson’s views on education. It is a TEDxNYED talk made before the publication of the book Why schools?