Matthew Webster and Nathaniel Hardt have written in defense of jGR, or the Interpersonal Communication Skills Rubric (ICSR), the following. Teachers new to this powerful rubric can use them in discussions with parents about its enforcement in their classroom. I have also placed these two statements in the Primers section (hardlink above) for ease of reference before parent conferences.
First, here is Matthew’s statement:
While I label jGR as “Interpersonal Communication” in the grade book, I do not talk to parents much about ACTFL standards. Instead, when a parent asks about their kid failing a jGR score, I deal with it the same way I (or any teacher) deals with a missing or incomplete assignment. I tell parents that language is about communication, and in a communication-based class, engaging appropriately in the conversation is the assignment, every minute of every day. If their kid goes to math class and does not try to do any math, the kid will not get any better at math and the parent should expect to see missing assignments in the grade book. If the kid comes to my class and does not try to join the conversation, they will see a missing assignment in the grade book. If the kid makes a half-assed effort to join the conversation, they will fail the assignment, just like they would if they only did half of their math assignment.
“Participation grades” seem nebulous and subjective to parents. Missing or incomplete assignments are pretty straightforward, and when I say that in a language class, the assignment is to engage appropriately in the class conversation, parents seem to understand that refusing to do that amounts to a missing assignment in my class. It’s been working well so far, at least.
A little epiphany during PT conferences. One of our student learning expectations states:
“The Shepherd Hill student demonstrates effective interactive communication skills (speaking and listening) – understanding and responding to a variety of topics and points of view.” The epiphany was that this is interpersonal mode. The components on the school rubric for this are high-level, output based and appropriate for native speakers. We have been told to make adaptations for FL needs. The double epiphany was that jGR is supported by our student expectations. “Interactive” sounds a lot like “interpersonal” and I see know need to search further for a semantic difference.
Parents are very happy to know that their quiet kid can have a high “participation” grade. All were in agreement with the idea that I am trying to have a conversation with the students and were able to appreciate the question, “What are the behaviors which characterize a good conversation?” Look interested, look at each other, express agreement and surprise, answer questions, speak in appropriate language, and it is not right to make the people who do not language do most of the speaking.