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Case Studies from Ken O’Connor’s book “Grading for Learning” 2nd edition.

Copy write 2002, Corwin Press

Case Study #1 – Rick’s Mysterious Falling Grade


The report card mathematics grade that Rick received in December in grade 9 was
about 25% lower than the grade he received in June at the end of grade 8. His
parents were very concerned because Rick had always enjoyed mathematics and
achieved at a high level. They went to the parent-teacher conference wondering
whether he needed a math tutor. When they put this question to the teacher, she
said that this was not necessary. She went on to say that his mathematics results
were excellent; all his test scores were more than 90%, but that he had received
low marks for participation, effort, group work, notebook, homework, and so forth.
Rick’s parents felt the grade was very misleading because it did not indicate clearly
Rick’s level of mathematics achievement.

Case Study #2 – Heather’s Grim Grade


Heather is a very bright girl who generally achieves at a high level. She has
always liked and done well in English. On her first report card in grade 11
English, she gets a C; both her parents and heather are shocked and upset by the
low (for her) grade. They express their concern to her teacher, who provides them
with a computer printout showing how Heather’s C was calculated. What is
revealed is that the marks for virtually every piece of work that was done were
included in her grade. First drafts, experimental pieces, quizzes on spelling and
grammar-marks for all of these were included. Heather did not do well on any of
them, but her unit tests, final drafts, and a major project all received marks of 85%
or better. Heather likes to experiment and to take risks on creative tasks; she also
needs a lot of practice to understand concepts and detail. By including all the
scores from the formative assessments in her grade, her teacher had emphasized
Heather’s weakness as a learner.

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Case Study #3 – Anil’s Amazing Improvement
Anil enrolled in a grade 9 keyboarding course for one semester. He had never had
a computer or a typewriter at home and has had very limited keyboarding
opportunities in the schools he attended previously. He chose to take keyboarding
because he realized that, in senior high school courses and in college, he would be
required to write essays and term papers that teachers would prefer (or require) to
be typed. He was, therefore, highly motivated to succeed. He was fortunate also
that he had been assigned to Mr. Smith’s class. Mr. Smith was an excellent teacher
who had great ability in identifying student strengths and weaknesses in
keyboarding and in providing appropriate activities to maximize student progress.
As would be expected, Anil did not do very well in the first few weeks. His
technique was poor, his speed was slow, and he made many errors—especially as
compared with the other students, most of whom had considerable experience with
computers, both at home and in their previous schools. Most of Anil’s marks in
the first six-week grading period were between 40% and 60%, so on the first report
he had a grade of 50%. In the second grading period, Anil improved significantly
and most of his marks were between 60% and 80%; his grade for this period was a
70%. In the third grading period, it all came together for Anil—the combination of
Mr. Smith’s excellent teaching and Anil’s motivation resulted in marks of 90% to
100% on every project and skill. However, the night before the final exam, Anil’s
parents told him that they were going to separate. Not surprisingly, he did not do
very well on the final exam, receiving a mark of only 60%. When combined with
his term work for the third grading period, his grade was an 81%!
School policy, however, required that the grades for the three grading
periods be averaged; thus, Anil’s final grade was only a 68%. Anil had clearly
mastered keyboarding but, because marks for his early work were included and
another assessment opportunity was not provided for the final exam (on which he
scored lower than his demonstrated skill) his final grade did not reflect fairly his
achievement in keyboarding.

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