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Student Advocacy - Moving Past Points

How many points is this worth? How can I get more points? What is the point of this? Can I earn my points back? Sound familiar???

Unfortunately, we live in an educational culture that is driven by points and grades. While we need to assess our students and provide feedback, how can we make students not as concerned about points and more concerned about their personal and academic growth? This feat is easier said than done; however, encouraging advocacy and reflection in our classrooms is a great starting point in establishing this type of culture.

As I visit the Science Department this week, I am constantly reminded about the importance of processing, sharing, questioning, and reflecting. At the Birkett Freshmen Center, a group of Biology teachers decided to focus on advocacy and reflection in their classrooms. One of our action items as a school this year is to promote advocacy with our students. How can we "recognize the barriers that students experience?" Dr. Lance Fuhrer, one of our Assistant Principals, challenged us to set the conditions for students to grow. One step in that process is providing students time to reflect individually in order to recognize when they are and are not meeting expectations. From here, students can learn how to confront, seek support, and be confident.

Ms. Toomey, Ms. Habas, and Ms. Matt decided to promote this self-awareness with their Biology classes as they completed one of their first lab reports. Their students are currently learning about dialysis, and the assignment asked them to write a lab report in the form of a letter. Students had to provide a purpose, evaluate if the dialysis tubing was working, provide evidence, analyze/explain, and offer a final recommendation for the recipient of the letter. After completing the work and submitting in Google Classroom, the teachers gave their students commenting/suggesting privileges on their own documents and guided them in class as they evaluated their own papers. Here is how it worked:

  1. Teachers gave commenting privileges of the lab report to the students and a copy of the rubric
  2. The teachers used an example report (displayed on the projector for all to see) they created and guided the students through each piece of the rubric explaining what they were looking for
  3. Students were directed to make comments/suggestions in their own Google Docs - did they include the necessary elements as directed by the rubric? If so, they highlighted and commented. If not, they highlighted and explained what they were missing ----> recognizing when they were and were not meeting expectations 
This process allowed students the time to process and reflect on the work they completed. It also provided time for them to really consider the rubric and learn how to meet expectations. With this, Ms. Toomey explained how she would grade the reports and then said to her students, "Are you now aware of how you did per the rubric?" This self-awareness will hopefully help them with future lab reports, as similar expectations will be in place. 

The teachers, on the other hand, now had a key of some sort when it came to grading. They could look at the comments in order to grade the students and also see how the students reflected on their own work. What a wonderful artifact of achievement and reflection! 

This shift in thinking from the importance of points to the importance of growth came to a head at the end of the activity: One student asked about the purpose of this activity. Can we get our points back? What will you be looking at when grading? Ms. Toomey provided a great response: "I will be looking at both your original work and comments. Use this feedback and understanding of the rubric in the future in order to make improvements in your work." She redirected the student to move past the points and to focus more on the big picture...building skills and making improvements. This awesome activity asked students to reflect on their work and recognize their strengths and weaknesses....both critical steps in promoting student advocacy. #whatsup 

Want to try something like this in your classroom? Here are some resources: 
  • Directions for self-assessment using the commenting feature (Created by Ms. Carrie Ory)
  • CheckMark - Awesome new grading extension that students can use (and teachers) Click here to watch a video of it in action.


  1. Impressive. Not only the activity itself, but the motivation and teamwork from the teachers.

    1. Yes! It was as really great activity to observe and can be applied to any subject. They are a great team!


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