Kathleen + Caren

Are on the Map

Meet Caren and Kathleen, authors of the book Rethinking Letter Grades and master educators. Their goal, to provide the best learning environments for students, motivated them to create a five-step process of teaching and assessing using “Learning Maps.” This process, creating “big ideas,” describing levels of performance, and selecting and matching evidence of learning to descriptions, clearly showed students their strengths and helped them to succeed.

Building and using learning maps is the foundation of QUIO. Creating learning maps may be a new process for you, and you may have questions along the way. We have provided FAQ here for you, but if you don’t find what you are looking for, just ask. Caren and Kathleen are here to answer your questions.

What do you say when parents or guardians ask for percentages? Parents and guardians see percentages as precise and more accurate than letter grades.

Percentages may be mathematically precise, but that does not make a percentage objective or accurate. It is the teacher who decides what goes on the test, what weight will be attached to each item, and what method will be used to tally and summarize the information and arrive at a letter grade. Robert Marzano (2000) talks about the trust that people often have in a percentages: “Rarely do people question whether percentage scores truly represent student learning. They simply assume the scores are an accurate reflection of students’ understanding and performance” (86).

One way that we try to have parents and guardians look beyond the number and focus on the learning is to show them the Learning Map and point out examples of their son’s or daughter’s learning. When we show them specific personal examples, some parents and guardians do come to understand that a percentage cannot capture the complexity of the learning, while a Learning Map points to the specific learning that their son or daughter has done and what they still need to do in order to improve. For example:

Let’s look at the Learning Map. This is what your daughter Paulina is required to learn (pointing to the Big Ideas). The highlighted areas show how well she is performing (pointing to the highlighted areas). You can see that this one area (pointing to this section) is a weakness, and it is holding her back from getting a better grade. A next step, which she can work on at home, is to include more details, sketches, and examples as proof that she really does understand what she is explaining. If we were just looking at a percentage of 82, this weakness might go unnoticed and you would never know these important details about Paulina’s learning. And, more importantly, she might be satisfied with an 82 and not even look at the fact that there are areas she needs to work on next term.

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