Like most other middle school teams in Shrewsbury, this is our first year using Schoology as our main portal for students and parents. We have spent many prep periods discussing our individual practices and streamlining our efforts to make things more consistent for students and parents.
As we had our discussions, there were a few things that really stood out to us because we were doing things differently. We usually came to a consensus and agreed on a common practice, but there were also times when it made sense to continue doing things differently.
Do you post homework as an update, an assignment, or both?
Update or assignment? That seems to be the big question. There are definitely pros and cons to both methods.
All updates appear on a student’s home screen. If needed, they can scroll down in a course as far back as needed to find an earlier post from a teacher. The big drawback though is the updates do not appear in the student’s calendar.
Assignments are automatically added to the student’s calendar (assuming you give it a due date) so they can see what is due tomorrow, in a few days, next week, etc. Assignments are also automatically added to your grade book (assuming you assign a point value). The big drawback to assignments is once the deadline passes, they are no longer shown in a student’s upcoming calendar. If a student is absent, they would need to look at their actual calendar to see what was missed. However, with the “course materials overdue” notification enabled, this becomes less of a concern.
The Verdict: We agreed that posting homework as an assignment makes more sense. A few of us have recently started to post homework as both an assignment and an update.
What is included in your Schoology gradebook?
The grade book feature in Schoology has caused some stress among teachers. As a reminder, every graded assignment in Schoology is entered into your grade book. Like it or not, students and their parents can see those grades.
Teachers seem to be divided into two categories:
- Schoology is your only grade book. It includes all of your grades for homework, quizzes, tests, etc.
- Schoology is not your main grade book. You only use it to keep track of assignments collected in Schoology, and you have a separate grade book for all of your other grades.
The Verdict: As a four-person team, two of us fall into Category 1 and the other two fall into Category 2. We agreed that it makes sense for us to use the grade book differently to meet our own needs, and it didn’t make sense to force us all to use it the same way. For example, Derek uses Google Classroom for a lot of grading in his ELA classroom. Many middle school teachers use Google Classroom for collecting and grading work. Others prefer to keep their grades in Excel, Google Spreadsheets, or a number of other tools. Use whatever works for you!
However, you should communicate with parents exactly which grades will and will not viewable in Schoology so they do not have an skewed understanding of their child’s grades in your class.
When a student misses an assignment, do you leave the grade blank or give them a zero?
During one of our discussions, we noticed some of us gave students a zero for missing homework while others left it blank. Again, there are some pros and cons to both.
The grade book in Schoology has an overall grade column, which factors in all of a student’s assignments to calculate an average grade out of 100%. It’s not an accurate representation of their actual grade by any means due to our standards-based grading system, but it does seem to be a motivating factor for some. When we add a zero for missing homework, their overall grade decreases. Some students will be motivated to pass work in late in order to improve that overall score.
There are two main drawbacks to adding the zero though. One is that the student is no longer notified that they have an overdue assignment. Also, if you have ever graded an assignment in Schoology, you have probably noticed that you can sort student submissions. For example, you can view just the assignments submitted on time or just the ones that were submitted late. You can also view just the submissions that need to be graded. If you give a student a zero, Schoology considers it a graded assignment. When the student does pass it in late, it will not appear under “Needs to be graded”.
The Verdict: We came to the conclusion that it made more sense to leave missing assignments, homework or otherwise, as ungraded. The drawbacks to this is missing assignments do not have an immediate negative impact on that “overall score” column in the grade book, and parents may misinterpret it when viewing the grade book. Since they don’t see a zero, they may not recognize that the assignment is late. However, we felt it made grading late assignments easier for us, plus it was important for students to receive notifications that they have an overdue assignment that still needs to be submitted.
If you have any thoughts on these three topics, start up a discussion on your school’s staff Schoology group! We would love to hear how other teams are using the various features in Schoology.