Being an educator means more than just teaching your students the standardized curriculum administered by the government; rather, they seek to understand their students in a holistic sense in order to best support them in their learning. When the topic of late or incomplete assignments is mentioned, many people who are not a part of the education system feel like the “fail” label is appropriate for the student. If the work isn’t complete, then they get a zero and that’s that. But does that approach truly stem out of an unconditional support for the education of our younger generation?
In Cooper’s text Talk about Assessment, he discusses the topic of students failing to complete assessments. He also addresses the threat of punishment approach to this topic (i.e., you don’t do the work, you get a zero). Cooper quotes Guskey & Bailey as they point out:
“No studies support the use of low grades or marks as punishments. Instead of prompting greater effort, low grades more often cause students to withdraw from learning (p. 64)”
What, then, is the proposed solution to this issue? How about addressing the problem before it occurs? Would teacher have to give a student a zero if the student was more inclined to submit their work?
This idea led me to think of a few ways that I would be able to adopt a proactive approach to this topic, especially given the urban setting of the school that I am currently doing my placement in (my Associate Teacher warned me that the students received very little support in their academics after school hours). After looking into a few different solutions, I have chosen two that would be easy to implement, yet affective in their approach.
The first idea came from reflecting on my own education experience. Why did I submit my work? Well, for a number of reasons:
- To appease my teacher
- To avoid a phone call home to mom and dad
- To be viewed as smart by my peers
- For self-affirmation in my own work ethic
- To earn those stars in Mr. Devine’s Grade 5 class so that I would be one of the top 5 students that he would take out for lunch to Pizza Hut’s buffet
Yup, that last one was a huge motivator! Rewarding students for their efforts in completing homework and assignments is easy and effective. No student would pass up Pizza Hut, so they complete all their work in an effort to earn that reward. If we expect students to complete assignments, it has to be worth their time; there has to be some type of incentive to encourage students to complete their assignments.
Another idea would be to record the occurrences of late or missing assessments. This provides students, parents, and the teacher a tangible reflection of the work ethic and completion rate of the student’s work. No matter what the reason, if the assessment is not complete, the students would have to record this in a stationed “Incomplete Work Log”, outlining their name, the date, what was incomplete, and the reason. This forces students to truly reflect on why the task was incomplete while also making them accountable for their actions.As educators, we must continue to teach students in all areas of their life, even if that means teaching them the skills of time management, accountability, initiative, and homework completion. The curriculum is one half of education; the student as a person is the other.