There is one thing that continues to astound me in discussions about assessment and that is our attachment to teaching “responsibility” and our commitment to “fairness.”
“We must assign zeroes.”
“We cannot award credit for doing nothing.”
“It isn’t fair to the students who turn work in on time.”
Doug Reeves knocks it out of the park in his article “The Case Against the Zero.”
Yet, time and time again, the conversation turns to responsibility.
I am all for teaching soft-skills. In fact, we have committed to ensuring we are mission-based and focused on teaching those skills that don’t always show up in our standards: creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, and etc. This summer as I was combing through Common Core resources, I was thrilled to see how often some of these terms actually do show up in our standards documents. Yet, in all of my work with soft-skills, I have never seen responsibility turn up. It is not one of the 21st Century Skills on which we are meant to focus, and yet, we educators are very committed to it.
Am I saying I don’t believe we should turn out responsible students?
I believe responsibility is an essential skill for success. I also believe it is a skill we learn with natural consequences. However, it is not in our standards, and therefore, it should not drive our assessment practices. I know many responsible professionals who miss deadlines and get no penalty whatsoever. It’s called the real world, and the real world begins in university, a place where I have been given grace many times by professors.
I don’t know why our great commitment as secondary educators to teaching “responsibility” but I would urge us to focus on more essential soft skills – creativity, collaboration, critical thinking – ones that actually do show up in our standards and ones that will motivate and engage students, essentially leading them to exhibit more responsible behavior.