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Deborah Nasir


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"I like this method of grading homework because it allows me to quickly verify my students' attempt, motivates them to try by giving them credit for the effort, and then allows for correction of any misunderstandings about the work by reviewing it," says Deborah Nasir. "In addition, it promotes responsibility because they must keep up with the stamped work until the unit is complete in order to get credit for it. Their corrected work remains in their hands as a study tool until exam time."

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As a computer science teacher at Pasadena (Texas) High School, Nasir believes that homework is an important part of the learning process because it provides students with the opportunity to practice independently the objectives they are taught. There is too little class time to allow for sufficient practice, so mastery of goals is often dependent on the at-home work. However, Nasir recognizes that this work is practice of a new concept, and she feels that grading it for accuracy is often inappropriate.

Deborah Nasir gives computer science students credit for the attempt in homework assignments.

"That leads to a catch 22: if you don't grade the work, students often will not do it, but grading a learning assignment for accuracy leads to frustration," Nasir told Education World. "By grading it for completion only, the motivation is there to attempt the work, without the frustration that might result if students don't fully understand and thus, make mistakes."

On the day a homework assignment is due, Nasir instructs her students to get out their work and walks around the room for a quick survey. If the work is complete, the student's page is stamped to indicate that he or she attempted to do the work. The assignment is then corrected in class and questions are addressed. Students keep their stamped homework pages in their notebooks.

"On the day of the unit test, the students gather all of the assignments that led up to the unit, staple them together, and turn them in just prior to taking the test," reported Nasir. "I go through the batch of assignments, marking through the stamps as I count them. I mark through the stamp because at that point I'm really not paying attention to the work itself, just speedily counting. The mark ensures that no one can turn one assignment in multiple times. Then, I put a numerical grade on the batch according to the percent completed. For example, if there were ten assignments leading up to the unit and a student has nine stamps, he or she will receive a 90 for the homework grade for that unit."

Nasir's students appreciate that they are not held responsible for correctness on the early attempt at independent practice, and they enjoy the stamps. Nasir has an extensive collection of stamps -- from Winnie the Pooh to phrases to interesting pictures even high schoolers like. At times, she finds that students have colored their stamped images just for fun!

"While grading homework, I've noted that some students have made rather extensive notes about what they did incorrectly on their homework pages," Nasir observed. "Since they aren't just writing down the correct answers, I believe that they are referring to the work and using it as a study tool."

Nasir finds it helpful to fully explain her homework grading system prior to implementation. She is careful to know in advance what a completed assignment should look like so that she can move quickly through the room and accurately assess the students' work. Pages with a small percentage of the problems unfinished are acceptable, but those that are very incomplete will not receive a stamp. Using fun stamps makes the assessment more pleasant for all, and Nasir always goes over the entire assignment after stamping students work so everyone has a chance to ask questions and take notes. Although she currently teaches only computer science, the homework grading process has worked for her in math classes too.

"My best ideas always seem to come from other teachers," added Nasir. "Be willing to discuss the problems you have with your colleagues, especially those who don't teach in your content area. Those conversations are the ones that usually result in some of the most creative solutions. I got this idea from an English teacher during a bus ride to an academic competition!"

Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
Copyright © 2006 Education World

12/1/2006