"Consider the Olympic runner poised to begin the race for the gold medal in the final heat. the pistol goes off, and the runners push their bodies to the breaking point, all of them dashing across the finish line within seconds of one another. Our runner comes in fourth, however, so there's no medal for him. Does he get a 'do-over' of that race? No - and that's proper at this level of competition. Remember, he's not in the learning-to-run stage of development; he's in the proficient-runner phase."
Wormeli goes on to discuss how sensible it is to expect different things of students at different points in their learning development, and that applying expectations of high levels of competency to students just learning new skills can be counterproductive. That is not to say that we shouldn't hold students to high expectations - but we need to make sure they've had enough scaffolded support to reach those expectations.
To think that by disallowing redos we are preparing students for the 'real world' just isn't accurate in thinking about how adults work and learn together. All jobs require practicing certain skills, whether it is for surgery, take-offs and landings, designing a new office building, or teaching algebra. We all get better with careful practice. And Wormeli points out that even high-stakes tests such as LSAT, MCAT, SAT, Praxis, driver's licensure can be retaken for full credit.
So if you decide to allow redos, how can you put that policy in place without making yourself crazy? Wormeli outlines some helpful tips for managing redos in your classroom. Here are a few of them:
- Ask students who redo assignments to also submit an explanation comparing the two - what is different and what did they learn as a result of the redo?
- Reserve the right to give alternate assessments/assignments if you think students might just memorize responses.
- You can also make clear to students and parents that redos are permitted at teacher discretion.
- After 2 or 3 unsuccessful redos, reconsider whether the student is ready for that content and/or if we haven't been able to come up with the right way to teach it. Return to it later.
- If the same student is always asking for redos, investigate what might be going on - with their readiness for the content or issues at home. Something else might be going on.
- Allow redos throughout the semester, but it's perfectly ok not to allow them the final week of the term. You'll be crazy getting grades sorted out, you don't need the added stress of dozens of redos to grade and recalculate.
I hope this is helpful in your thinking about grading policies and redoing assignments. How have you handled redos so far?