Wednesday, March 14, 2007

"Yaruki" points as part of a classmark

"Yaruki" (やる気), loosely translated means "one's desire to do something, or one's enthusiasm or drive".

Dave Kees, has cleverly elicited three responses from me on the topic of how and why to use a classmark as part of my oral communication classes. I started calling students' efforts they made in class, YARUKI POINTS, as a way to praise students. Here are my responses linked together:

1) I found this link by Christine Coombe talking about portfolio marking, and plan to try it out in my EFL high school situation in Japan.

2) I've had tremendous success with a simple visual grid with student names on it this year. As soon as they saw me recording participation points next to their names, hands shot up all year.

The courses are "Oral Communication" (about 20 students)and therefore there is a premium placed on communicating. I welcome questions, follow-ups, and comments on what I or other students say in class. I also semi-regularly elicit error corrections and attempt to give non-verbal types the chance to collect points through written efforts. Whenever students participate they get credit for that. The students are told that their tests make up 60-70% of their grade and their classmark is 30-40% (depending on the class).

Of course, there are many ways to calculate a classmark. From objective formulas to subjective opinions, the classmark evolves from class to class. Say a typical class has a 30% classmark. I first present the classmark idea and explain my belief that learning should be a goal throughout the course, not just for the tests. I state in a loud voice that I believe that using English leads to more learning than simply studying “about” English.

Some components of the mark can include how many diaries they hand in (graded at 1 or 2 points each), how many participation stars (*s) they accumulate next to their name on my seating chart, how actively I've noted that they participate in pairwork or groupwork, how much effort I see and feel them making in class, etc.

The calculation can be general (pick a class average, say, 20/30 and mark each student up or down from the average) or it can be specific (using excel, breaking the classmark into various columns, and totaling their efforts). I have used both systems.

The whole classmark concept rests on the premise that you must get to know your students. I'm always trying to find ways to connect with them both inside and outside of class. Each time I get to know them a little more, it pays dividends in terms of classroom interaction, a relaxed, friendly study environment and, hopefully, learning opportunities.


1 comment:

Marco Polo said...

I've done something similar, but now I'm wondering about it. Why give a grade for participation? Does it make a difference if students know beforehand whether the teacher is grading on a curve (norm-referenced) or not? Are they "participating" because they fear failing, because they assume they are competing with their peers, because they are genuinely interested in learning?

Another question I have (for myself) is whether a subjective "participation/attitude" score isn't a cop-out because I can't be bothered (or have failed adequately) to assess their actual competence?

On the other hand, participation can be considered an important aspect of learning, especially in the light of Vygotsky's ZPD theory. (see James Lantolf for further work on this).

But... after reading this paper by David Jeffrey, I wonder, isn't this just bribery? You could substitute the tokens with cookies, thousand-yen notes, or sex, and get pretty much guaranteed successful "results". But is that what I want?