Zeros should be avoided at all Costs

Photo Credit: amsd2dth via Compfight cc

Last class we had a presentation from Tim Caleval with the Ministry of Education about their Student First program. This program is trying to shift the school system from being product centered (trying to get all students ready for university) to student centered. Saskatchewan has a Plan for Growth that includes improving graduation rates to lead the country by 2020, which involves reducing the difference in graduation rates between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students by 50%. This initiative is something I stand for and find greatly reflects my teaching philosophy. The goal of schools should not be to pass students through a system so they all look the same and are capable of going on to university; however, school should be focusing on preparing students for whatever they are wanting to do that reflects their strengths and interests. One of the biggest things that I think is important in being an educator includes building good student rapport. I believe a big influence to students’ learning involves having a good relationship that incorporates respect. Giani, M. and O’Guinn, C. concluded in their study the importance of building supportive relationships as a foundation for learning. This was also one of the big concepts of Student First; likewise, Davies writes “relationships are key- [w]hen we begin by sharing the learning destination with students and parents, and by building classroom agreements, we help build a community where learning is supported by assessment” (p. 23). It’s very obvious how important it is establish a routine, procedure, and ensure students know what is expected of them. Another focus of Student First is shared responsibility between the student and the teacher. Something that came up in both the presentation and the class discussion was the idea of giving zeros- whether it be for absences or items that weren’t handed in. This was a very touchy subject for some as it seems there is no real right answer. Part of my philosophy was it completely depends on the student and situation. If a student needs to be absent for an important reason, they should not receive a zero reflecting their knowledge when they didn’t have a chance to provide corresponding evidence. I don’t believe it is an accurate representation of the student’s understanding of the outcome and therefore zeros should not be the “go to”. I think the teacher should try as hard to avoid giving zeros as they can, and only have it as a last resort. Zeros don’t accurately record how well students are progressing in meeting the outcomes. I’m sure this will bring much more work than just writing down a zero, but I feel it is our job as teachers to give an accurate representation of students’ work. 


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