Q: I know we have been encouraged to give finals early to allow for time for remediation and retakes. I have also heard that sometimes an Incomplete is issued if remediation is still necessary. When is it appropriate to give an Incomplete?
A from an administrator’s perspective: The incomplete is a direct residual of trying to create more time for students to learn. The goal though, is not to give a bunch of incompletes (which can become difficult to manage moving forward), but instead to look at the use of formative assessment, essential skills, and identification of what a C, B, or A students is able to do. All of the earlier questions lead to this question – in a learning culture, how do I use each tool at my disposal to maximize student achievement? Early finals are one of those tools. But the biggest tool is still knowing what it is we expect students to learn (essential skills) and then making instructional decisions along the way to support this. Having this roadmap makes re-assessment easier (is this something essential or not gives a much clearer idea as to whether or not we should be hounding students to make something up). If you think you need to give points to something to make students do it, providing low-stakes formative feedback (trust me when I say you do not need to grade everything along the way) has been proven to be a far more powerful tool when it comes to student learning than grades are (in fact studies have been done that show while feedback is by far the most powerful way to improve student learning, grades without feedback are actually less impactful on improving student learning than no feedback at all – let that sink in).
A from a fellow teacher: I haven’t really faced this hurdle yet, so I don’t have a lot of experience to go on. But, I am thinking the idea of the “essential skills” will help me here. If a student is missing or failing something that is ESSENTIAL to my course, I would want to explore what else there could be done to help that student. If the gap is from something non-essential, I think I would rethink the grade I was about to issue instead of giving an Incomplete and putting pressure on myself and the student to remediate while also beginning term 3.
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