We Connect Grades to Behavior Using jGR Because it is the Right Thing to Do

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27 thoughts on “We Connect Grades to Behavior Using jGR Because it is the Right Thing to Do”

  1. Thank you for condensing this all in one place. Great timing, as I had a dept. meeting today that left me feeling a bit queasy. I am going to reread it several times. I am not very skilled at articulating in a brief way what I am doing. I get stuck in conversations with colleagues or administrators, where it is clear they have no idea what CI is all about, and I can’t think fast on my feet nor can I come up with a “tweet” answer. So frustrating that we have to spend precious life force on the convincing and defending part, this depleting our reserves for when we really need it in the classroom.

  2. Ben and I are gonna have to agree to disagree: in my view– despite its usefulness for describing language-learning-necessary behaviours (or the lack thereof) to kids, parents and Adminz– jGR cannot form part of evaluation.

    If I have a kid who either doesn’t tune in, or is a dick-head to me (and/or the class), this is an issue separate from the Numberz I will evenually put on his Reportz. If Johnny Jerkface’s behaviours impact his learning, jGR will help me communicate that to Adminz and parents by allowing me to say “Johnny does/ does not do _____.” If his behaviours impact my class, Adminz can deal with him and he doesn’t come back until he either plays the game or sits in back and stops disrupting things.

    However, at the end of the course, I am not testing Johnny Jerkface on how nice he is, whether or not he can think of funny stuff for stories, or whether or not he has listened. I am interested only in how much/well Johnny can read, write, speak and listen. Behaviour matters– and I am a Nazi when it comes to kids not disrupting mynlessons– but I cannot in good conscience grade it.

    The AFL researchers are all pretty clear on this: we evaluate output, not practice, attitude, homework, etc.

    1. I just wanted to take a moment to respond, I hope, constructively to this idea that you have:

      “However, at the end of the course, I am not testing Johnny Jerkface on how nice he is, whether or not he can think of funny stuff for stories, or whether or not he has listened. I am interested only in how much/well Johnny can read, write, speak and listen. Behaviour matters– and I am a Nazi when it comes to kids not disrupting mynlessons– but I cannot in good conscience grade it.”
      —————————————————————————
      I think the whole purpose of jGR is not to assess how nice or funny a student is, but rather to assess how well they meet the Interpersonal Standard, as per ACTFL. It’s about them being able to negotiate meaning in the CI/TPRS classroom, it’s about their interaction in class, which of course is going to have to relate to behaviors because, in order to assess how well they meet the Interpersonal Standard, we have to assess how well they “engage in conversations, provide and obtain information, express feelings and emotions, and exchange opinions”. For us, co-creation of the input/stories is what drives our classrooms, thus in order to assess engagement and expression (both behaviors), we need to delineate what that looks like us and how that fits the ACTFL standard. I think that was the purpose of jGR and I think that’s what it’s assessing. I think it’s very difficult to assess the Interpersonal Mode without assessing behavior in some way (I may be repeating myself now, my apologies).

      Also, notice how the standards do not mention discrete skills: listening, reading, writing, speaking anymore. As per Shrum & Glisan, in their wonderful book Teacher’s Handbook: Contextualized Language Instruction, assert when they discuss where the standards take us: “Communication in three modes to mirror real communication and to emphasize the purpose of communication” (58). So, language instruction has gone away from looking at those four discrete skills, and rather focusing on the idea of communication. So, then, our jobs become: how do we assess those communication standards (interpretive, interpersonal, presentational)?

      ——————————————————————————
      The AFL researchers are all pretty clear on this: we evaluate output, not practice, attitude, homework, etc.”
      ——————————————————————————

      To further comment, and continue the discussion a little more (but really it’s all the same point), when you say that we evaluate output, I think that’s too simplistic of a view. We evaluate Interpretive Communication (“Students understand and interpret written and spoken language on a variety of topics”), Interpersonal Communication (as referenced above, which could be output, but again in the TPRS/CI classroom our focus is not on forcing output, as we would rather it come naturally (and it does) and notice what that output sounds like, in order to inform better the input we provide), and Presentational Communication (which IS output, that’s true). But again, in the early levels we focus much more on Interpretive and Interpersonal and then, in later years, when we have planted a rich garden of input, we can start looking more seriously at Presentational Communication. Anyway, it’s too simplistic of an assertion to say that we evaluate output and not practice or attitude. But yeah, down with homework!!

      Again, I’m just looking at it from the viewpoint of standards-based grading, which I fully support and I think the jGR helps us in assessing those standards. Just my two cents! I love myself a healthy debate, so thanks Chris for providing me with the opportunity to air a couple of my thoughts. I hope you don’t take offense because I truly value your opinion in this discussion :).

      1. This sums it up:

        …the whole purpose of jGR is … to assess … how well they meet the Interpersonal Standard, as per ACTFL. It’s about them being able to negotiate meaning in the CI/TPRS classroom, it’s about their interaction in class, which of course is going to have to relate to behaviors because, in order to assess how well they meet the Interpersonal Standard, we have to assess how well they “engage in conversations, provide and obtain information, express feelings and emotions, and exchange opinions”….

        I also really like your point about it not being practical to grade output.

        1. And Nathan I also really like your point about the now outmoded four skills:

          …language instruction has gone away from looking at those four discrete skills, and rather focusing on the idea of communication….

          To support your point, there is this:

          Q. What happened to the 4 skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing?

          A. The four skills are imbedded in the Performance Guidelines. They have been repackaged into language modes, which place the primary emphasis on the purpose of communication and the context in which it happens, rather than on any one skill in isolation.

          Taken from: http://www.actfl.org/performance-guidelines-faq

  3. Rather than agreeing to disagree, we need to find the evidence in the standards that specifically does or does not justify using observable interpersonal behaviors on an academic evaluation. I believe Robert has best articulated this in the past, and perhaps, if you are reading this, Robert, and have a concise statement from the standards, you could help us put this argument to rest so we can move on–either continue to push jGR behaviors as academic, or if not, then find other ways of holding kids responsible for their actions in class as Chris is doing.

    I think that it is so important to have our i’s dotted and t’s crossed here because the stakes are high and this is revolutionary talk, and parents/administrators are going to say “you can’t do that.” If they are right, we need to know that. Also, the other potentially dangerous result of these conversations is when others say “Billy’s other teachers don’t grade this way” and then we say “language is different” and then they say: “well, the other language teachers are not doing this.” We need a response that is accurate without causing rifts in language departments.

    1. Robert has addressed this, about four months ago. I remember it. It is very solid. If I find it I will put it here. I would rather he spend his time, we are so lucky to have him in the group, on the more important stuff. I’ll find what he wrote about jGR and standards. It’s pretty much the shut down version of the argument.

  4. By the time I had finished typing out my response, John had already commented, which I had missed! I think this IS a very pertinent discussion we need to be having about how we justify using observable interpersonal behaviors on an academic evaluation. We could emphasize that Interpersonal Communication relies on behaviors (i.e. engage, provide and obtain, express), but I think there may be a stronger argument in a discussion of the skill of negotiating meaning, which is a skill of Communicative Competence (part of ACTFL’s proficiency guidelines, right?). In order for anyone to properly negotiate meaning in the TL, they have to be attending to the input. Hell, to even get intake (i.e. language that becomes part of their implicit system, per VanPatten and Lee), they have to be paying attention to the input. Thus, we have to create an environment that favors their paying attention as much as possible to the input not only so that they can acquire language but also so they can actually negotiate meaning (which again leads to their acquiring of the language). Sure, we can have stories that are interesting or a fun class, but the human mind wanders all the time (I’m sure there’s brain-based research to back this up). Having a rubric that delineates how someone actively listens and participates and thus how they actively negotiate meaning in the foreign language classroom is best-practice teaching in my eyes.

    I would say to other colleagues: how are you ensuring that students are negotiating meaning in your classroom? how are you assessing/teaching to the ACTFL standards? how are your activities communicative in nature? I mean, this is where foreign language education should be heading, so there needs to be a more open dialogue about these issues in our departments. This is an issue that goes outside of TPRS, but encompasses being a best-practice language instructor. Being a professional, you know?

    Haha, okay, I’ve said a lot. Sorry for my rambling / rant. Gonna go make dinner! 🙂

    1. A few more thoughts. A couple of things taken from that book I mentioned earlier by Shrum & Glisan (pgs 254 and 255).

      “It is important to understand the characteristics of oral communication that make it interpersonal:

      – Two or more speakers are engaged in conversation and exchange of information…Interpersonal communication is spontaneous; it is not scripted and read or performed as a memorized skit.
      – Interpersonal communication is meaningful and has as its objective a communicative task or reason for communicating. Consequently, working in pairs to do mechanical grammar exercises out of the textbook does not constitute interpersonal communication.
      – Since interpersonal communication is spontaneous, conversational partners must listen to and interpret what the other speaker says.
      – Conversational partners often find it necessary to negotiate meaning with one another in order to interpret meaning. Thus, the interpretive mode of communication is implied in interpersonal communication. Negotiating meaning involves asking for repetition, clarification, or confirmation, or indicating a lack of understanding. Natural conversations have pauses as speakers think of what they want to say and repetitions as they repeat, restate, or even correct their utterances.
      – Conversational partners often find it necessary to use gestures to make their message clear and to circumlocute, or express a thought in an alternative way when specific words or expressions are unknown.

      Those last two points are key. As per the jGR that Ben uses, where he emphasizes negotiation of meaning, we have a clear connection to not only the interpersonal standard but also the interpretive one. I think that’s pretty powerful support for a rubric like the jGR, yeah?

  5. ok…I’ll be the thorn in the side here:

    Grading does nothing for language acquisition.

    Teachers are NOT using jGR in order to improve acquisition. They are using it in order to create an environment in which acquisition can occur. That environment is enhanced by certain student AND teacher behaviors.

    Teachers are evaluating student behaviors so that students put a value on their own behaviors. In some schools, only behaviors that are graded are considered to have value.

    Grading most homework IS ALSO GRADING A BEHAVIOR. So if admins tell you that you cannot grade behavior, you may kindly want to point that out. Very, very little homework, if any, can provide for language acquisition. It can only provide an opportunity for students to follow instructions (ie perform expected behaviors)

    The most difficult piece for teachers to defend is how one can accurately assess using the rubric while simultaneously focusing on the lesson. I really don’t think that most people can.

    That is why the self-assessment is appropriate and crucial. Whether it is appropriate to include a “grade” from it in a students’ average IS debatable. My sense is that including the grade in an average, for many teachers, may not feel “right” but feels effective. In some situations it even feels “necessary” in order to create the appropriate environment.

    There will never be total agreement on this issue; we each teach in a different reality. However, the discussions are critical to helping us each not only choose our own path, but to understand and to be able to defend it in our own situation.

    with love,
    Laurie

    1. Laurie has just written almost exactly what I was thinking, and probably better than I. One thing that I have added to the conversation that I had with students (and I just put some eye-popping jgr grades in for 4%ers) was that this communication /conversation practice is something that I can give them that will help them in every class they ever take that requires interaction with a group. They are products of a digital age, as Ben reminds us, and need to be trained in human interaction. I have tried to focus on the self grading aspect, as they are training themselves to be aware of who they are in a conversation. In an ideal classroom environment, the jgr would be superfluous, but where hormones/self-importance/impulse control and other issues are at work (like my middle school) the jgr has been incredibly helpful to some of my students.

  6. Ben, thanks for getting this discussion started. Your post is extremely helpful as I get jGR and the standards sorted out and aligned in my head. When I first heard about jGR I knew it wouldn’t work for me becuase our school system is very anti behavior-based grading. But when I read further I realized jGR is simply the interpersonal communication standards “rubricified” into the MEASURABLE and, most importantly taught and learnable, communication skills that enable academic success in our classes.

    That’s what made me realize jGR isn’t just a sneaky way to grade on behavior. I love the speech class analogy someone made on here a few days ago. If a student in a speech class refused to make eye contact with the audience and refused to clearly annunciate, I’m sure that would be grounds for a lower grade, EVEN IF the content of the speech was great, because learning eye-contact and annunciation are essential to becoming an impactful speaker.

    I’m glad I get to be part of this discussion before handing out my first jGR-inclusive progress reports Friday. The part I’m uneasy about is that I’ll have more failing grades than I’ve ever had on progress reports. I’m hoping that seeing the low rubric grades on paper will be enough to get most of my kids in line. The part I’m not so sure about is what I’ll do if I have a lot of failures by report card time in a few weeks. Last year my principal went into my colleague’s grade book online and changed a bunch of failing grades to passing without my colleague’s permission so some seniors could have their Spanish credits before going to college. I’m not sure how that same principal will feel if my failure numbers are higher than usual (But I am hopeful that by the end of the year CI will have had its effect and I’ll have less failures anyway).

    1. …the part I’m uneasy about is that I’ll have more failing grades than I’ve ever had on progress reports….

      Do not, repeat, do not make the change too fast. You cannot professionally justify that. It would be like if you were going to stop using the tank track coupler* to change a tire on a race car when the pit crew was used to it. It would throw off their timing and piss off everybody in the building.

      You need to start this thing at a lower percentage and gradually ramp it up between now and the end of the year. Then the kids won’t all suddenly be flunking and you won’t have to put your principal into another unconscionable and professionally pathetic situation. (Was the principal right? is another discussion. I say he was wrong but I also say that the teacher who did that, failed kids just before graduation, was indeed culpable as well, in a most egregious way. Both were fools.)

      It should never have gotten to that. And it shouldn’t with you. Start jGR with a grade around 20% or whatever it takes to pull your students down a letter grade and give them a nice slap up side the head, but not to where they are all of a sudden failing. Keep turning the screws in each grading term you have left to where they are feeling the heat by the end of the year but not failing.

      Just get through the year without any big drama. You can’t change horses in midstream, as we say. You may end up with jGR at 40% and you can start the year in the fall with that. Then you will have the kids’ attention. And that is the purpose of jGR.

      Those in our group here who are using it here and who have reported back in various comments since it started being used by us in the fall have all, to my memory, reported straighter backs, more squared shoulders, clearer eyes, etc. WHEN THEY REMEMBER TO EMPLOY IT OFTEN ENOUGH, WHICH WAS MY BIG LEARNING HERE THE PAST MONTH WHERE TALONE WAS RIGHT AND I WAS WRONG.

      So give them a daily grade, or three per week if it’s March Madness and you have to watch 34 basketball games a week or are otherwise occupied, and enforce the thing at the right percentage, so you don’t get a bunch of pissed off kids and parents. Why do that? It’s only fair to them to crank this bad boy up slowly.

      *sorry Robert but I can’t stop thinking about this metaphor. It was SO GOOD and so YOU bc who else has even heard of such a thing. It makes me laugh like a permanent laughter pill I’ve taken since reading it. Or chuckle at least. Can you tell I need a good laugh don’t we all right about now? I’ll drop it – not – but it is such a great metaphor it attacks my funny bone. I know, I have a weird sense of humor. And it’s only bc you made it up and not someone else. Again, sorry, I’m desperate for a good laugh these days.

      1. Ben, thanks for the advice on the measured used of jGR. You’re right -it would not be right of me professionaly to have a bunch of students failing ALL OF A SUDDEN -in terms of my responsability to their success and to my job. Thanks for bringing me to reality before I went off the deep end this Friday and made a mess for myself. I think I will drop my jGR weight down to 20% as you suggested and maybe ramp it up gradually to something a little higher by the end of the year.

        1. Rebekah Gambrell

          I found that only one week of bad jGR grades during one week and allowing the students see their grades drop seems to get them on the right track.

        2. Greg,

          I’ve used something similar to jGR for years, but 90% of my students got ‘A’s for just showing up. No bookwork, no HW, hardly any quizzes. My rubric was not clear, nor was it demanding enough of their attention. They never had the level of engagement that they do this year.

          This year, I have more ‘B+’s than ‘A’-minuses, with a couple of ‘C+’s. That, however, is the only difference, grade-wise. I could never get away with suddenly lowering the kids’ grades significantly, nor would I recommend it.

  7. As a parent, I get annoyed when my kid’s teachers grade non-outcome stuff like works habits etc. One guy at her school hands out 10% for work handed in early. So my daughter took the bait and pulled off a 95% in economics. Her actual understanding of the subject, however, is nowhere near that level. (She is not a numbers-type thinker). The teacher also marks “attitude.” You want to hit the gym today?

    My daughter’s boyfriend, however, is (academically anyway) much smarter, but has what comes across (sometimes) as an “attitude” problem (which has a lot to do with a teacher who basically thinks God invented first economics and then him). Plus he’s disorganised. So my daughter gets way higher marks than the BF despite having a poorer understanding of the subject.

    This–among other reasons, like that marks should NOT be a kind of currency with which teachers “pay” students– is why I think behaviour(s) should not be graded unless they directly reflect learning outcomes.

    The egg-head kids love the guy cos, for them, they get “free” marks for a simple behaviour.

    1. …my daughter’s boyfriend, however, is (academically anyway) much smarter, but has what comes across (sometimes) as an “attitude” problem….

      This dude has his male female stereotypes stuck in the 1950’s. This is bc the guy with the bad attitude is, in fact, a guy. Keep my son away from that dude’s classroom.

    2. …is why I think behaviour(s) should not be graded unless they directly reflect learning outcomes….

      And I agree with the exception of in languages. In fact, behaviors don’t just directly reflect learning outcomes in languages, they ARE in large part the learning outcomes themselves.

      It’s differentiation in the purest sense. We grade each kid not on how fast they acquire (was it Einstein who didn’t say a word until he was six?) but on how they interact with us, on who they are as people. Which is what language ultimately reveals. Math doesn’t reveal who we are as people, but language education does. THAT is what language IS.

      What we do is SO DIFFERENT from economics and science and math. It is SO MUCH MORE A PART OF BEING HUMAN, as we glance off our students’ hearts each day and reveal part of our star selves, looking for their star selves, always trying to use language to move ever closer, closer to who we really are, to share being human with others, as we were meant to but somehow forget lately.

      Or we could treat language education in the way it’s been done for so long, by making grading and instruction robot-like. I don’t want to do that. I want to live in my heart in my job. I want to laugh and enjoy my students’ endearing if clumsy attempts to become real people in that most trying and difficult time of life called growing up and in those especially insane teen years, where it’s all upside down.

      I want to help my students grow up, by using language to glance off their star selves. We could do the robot grading thing, but some of us here don’t want to, as we look to the new era of living in our hearts that is coming so fast, like a freight train now, to us on this particular planet, since we are pure and we come from the stars (a line spoken by the snake in Le Petit Prince).

      I want to work in the human way with my kids, and in order to do that I must grade them in the human way. Plus, Krashen says robots don’t converse. That’s enough for me, right there.

      1. Rebekah Gambrell

        I have kids that are behaving terribly in their other classes and come to my class and are understanding and communicating in class because of jGR. They are not required to do anything else. I don’t give homework. They don’t have to take notes. They just have to interact with the class. I love seeing the lower students excel in my class. I am not a 4%. I learned the language from hearing it. It is because of the jGr that the other 96% do well in my class.

  8. Bernard Rizzotto

    After a period of skepticism about JGR, which was due to my lack of understanding and the fear of being too biased, I finally gave it a shot towards the end of November. I sent some emails to my administration and the counselors with the rubric attached and, with the help of your wonderful posts, I explained the rational behind this bold move. One of the counselors replied with incredulity: “really, you are rewarding students who slow you down? Now that is revolutionary!”
    And it was…
    What happened in my classroom after the kids understood that my intention was to help them help me was just so unbelievable that I asked the administrators to come see the students take charge of their learning. Hands were flying over their heads, the energy was palpable, the principal stunned. On top of addressing the Communication Standard, I was also right on with SIOP, our adopted teaching framework, and of course its main component of Comprehensible Input.
    What else can I say? Thank you! It has been an incredible tool and I join Rebekah’s enthusiasm at giving a voice and a way to succeed to all my students.
    Bernard

  9. Salut Bernard,

    Nice to hear from you on the blog! I love your counselor’s response, very refreshing. your post made me reflect on my own use of jGR. I have to use it more, or more consistently . I just have not been doing that so after reading your answer here I think I’ll give it another try….
    Sounds like you are having a nice teaching year.
    Stay in touch.

    À +

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