Reflections on the Learning Record

A mountain range reflected in a lake so that the mountains and sky looks duplicated in the lake


Regina Marie Mills

For my third time teaching "Rhetoric of Revolution," I am using a non-traditional method of assessment - The Learning Record (LR). This method has really changed some of my in-class methods and has also made me reexamine my teaching persona.

Here and here are a few previous blog posts by other DWRLer's regarding the Learning Record, which can help give a bit more context for my own reflection. The main thrust of The Learning Record is that students argue for their grades in a pre-assessment (what they know and don't know coming in), at mid-term (as an advisory grade, establishing their progress mid-way) and at the end of the semester (which is their final grade for the course). Their argument must refer back to the four course goals and the holistic rubric I established at the beginning of the year. At the time of writing this blog, my students have turned in their mid-term assessments but I have not yet looked at them.

This blog post allows for me to reflect on what I wanted out of the LR and how that has and has not changed my teaching. I see two major areas for reflection: 1) the rethinking of reading quizzes and other smaller assignments and 2) my teaching persona and class policies.

In regards to the first area, I have found myself more carefully considering the outside work that I give to students. Indeed, one issue with any college class is getting students to do the reading, and in the past, I have used reading quizzes to "force" reading. But without a traditional grading system, this is not a viable option as doing poorly on the quiz doesn't effect your "grade" in a measurable way. Indeed, with the LR, I have to depend on students to see the long-term; it is easy for me to tell the students who have not read and since class participation is part of the holistic rubric, not sharing in class (which I keep track of in a not-very-scientific way; notes I take during class) is something I can bring up as a possible reason for lowering the grade a students argues for. And the student themselves will need to assess their participation, which means that any honest student will have to recognize their lack of participation.

In this same vein, since I can't give quizzes, the assignments I create are now more focused on writing production. Since students' writing is their primary source of evidence for their grade argument, I feel it is important to give them more formal and informal, short and long writing assignments, both in-class and out-of-class. I had one student, who has really embraced the LR, tell me in an after-class conversation that this is the first class where she feels like she is truly being taught how to write. This is a great compliment for me because it can be difficult to balance teaching content (manifestos and revolutionary rhetoric) with teaching the process of writing. I feel like less of my work is busywork and more of it is meaningful writing.

My reflections on the first area are generally positive; I feel good about how the LR has given my assignments a better connection with what I want my students to learn and demonstrate. However, reflecting on the second area - my teaching persona and class policies has left me rethinking several things. First, my LR holisitic rubric takes into account attendance and on-time rate for class assignments. However, I also have a pretty strict tardy, absence, and late work policy and this just doesn't seem to fit into the spirit of the LR. To me, it seems like the LR works on natural consquences; instead of a one-size-fits-all framework, the LR can help students punish themselves for missing class or missing several deadlines, rather than having it be the onus of the teacher. I could have eliminated these punitative policies (ex. 3 tardies equals an absence) before the semester started, but I know that I am a very structured teacher (I'm sure it comes from my 3 years of teaching 9th grade in a Title I school, where structure was super helpful to my students). This makes me wonder about what I will do for my next teaching assignment in the English department - will I continue using the LR? Is it more realistic to provide top-down punishment for late work? Should I be trying to mirror the "real world" in my classroom or is a classroom a place that cannot and should not simulate the real world? These are some of the questions that I will continue to reflect on as the semester continues and I prepare for my next class outside of the Rhetoric department. 


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