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By Dr. Kathie F. Nunley

Advice to teachers: You cannot be too clear when it comes to expectations. Make sure your students (and their parents) are very clear on what your expectations are for every assignment. One of the biggest sources of frustration and fuel for argument is grade confusion. Students need to know, going in, what your expectations are. You as a teacher also need to know what your expectations are.

We've all been in that position where we give an assignment only to be grossly disappointed with the product turned in. We may say to ourselves, "I don't know exactly what I wanted, but I do know this is not it" Never put yourself or your students in that position. Before you give an assignment, ask yourself, "what do I expect to see?"

For example, I may offer an assignment for students to make a poster on the evolution of the plant kingdom and make that assignment worth 20 points. Does that mean that every poster turned in will be worth 20 points? Of course not. So, what does a 20 point poster look like? What does a 15 point poster look like? A 10 point poster? At what point would the child get no credit? Write down your answers. Try to be very specific. Avoid terms like "good" or "creative". These are terms interpreted differently by everyone. Creative may mean an original work not copied out of the textbook or using ideas from more than one source. Good may mean that it shows 7 different transitions or is in full color or makes good use of white space or took a great deal of time to design.

Write down your criteria. Share it with the students ahead of time. I make criteria or "rubrics" for all the different types of assignments I offer. I post those rubrics on the wall around the room, color coded based on the assignment type.

Students want to do well. Tell them what you want and give them a fair chance to do it. If they fall short, you have a much easier time defending your grade to both them and their parent.

About the Author:
Dr Kathie Nunley is an educational psychologist, researcher and author of several books on parenting and teaching, including A Student's Brain (Brains.org) and the best selling, "Differentiating the High School Classroom" (Corwin Press). She is the developer of the Layered Curriculum® method of instruction and has worked with parents and educators around the world to better structure schools to make brain-friendly environments. In addition, her work has been used by the Boeing Corporation, Family Circle Magazine, the Washington Post, and ABC television.
Email her: Kathie (at) brains.org


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