After our discussions first semester about grading categories, classroom activities and technology, I have altered a few things in my classroom this semester. For starters, I changed my grading categories from the "old school" homework, labs, tests and quizzes to responsibility, content knowledge, labs and problem solving. I am also weighing grades for the first time this semester. I am anxious to see how this changes the conversations with parents about students who are "bad test takers". I can already see a huge difference with the kids who really know the information and the students that are good at "playing school".
In both chemistry and ERE I give my students a 1-2 question Concept Quiz each Friday over the main concepts instead of the small nit-picky terms that will be irrelevent to them after the test. The Concept Quiz covers information discussed in class on Monday and Wednesday of that week and can be individual, open or closed notes, a group mini-lab, etc. I also usually have 2-3 questions on the quiz and the students can choose which question they would rather answer. The feedback that I have received has been very positive. The students like being able to choose the question they are comfortable with and scores have shown the students have a good understanding of the main concepts from a particular unit.
Homework in my classroom has also changed a great deal. In chemistry and ERE I do not assign daily homework just for the sake of giving homework. At times, I will give a small assignment and give a responsibility grade if they have it completed and are prepared for class. The assignments that are more substantial I will collect and grade for content knowledge. I have less grading to do, but am still working on how to "split" up an assignment for my different grading categories. Once I have more experience with these grading categories I think it will be much easier to grade projects or larger assignments.
I have received positive feedback overall for these changes. I think the students are able to understand the main concepts that are important in each chapter or unit, which is really what I want them to take away from my classes.