Whether you call it Harkness, Socratic, or Ishmael, an academic discussion between an entire class is fast-moving and takes practice to score. Despite having my scoring chart from the previous post on hand in yesterday’s seminar, I often found myself searching for the right code to enter near a particular student’s name. Meanwhile, the conversation moved on, briefly passing me by, making it a constant game of catch-up.
Obviously, with practice and a better familiarity with codes through use, I will get faster at this method of scoring. Still, the long, lost scientist in me decided to make a better table. First, I looked at the data of Alexis Wiggins’ “spider discussions,” as she calls her Harkness model, because it looks like this. Then I looked at my own scorecard from yesterday’s seminar. Which codes were we using the most? And how could I better organize them for real-time applications?
I chose to give my Spidey sense the day off and not bother with drawing spider webs like Wiggins’, though it does provide a good visual indicator of who talks too much, too little, or a reasonable amount. I was a bit confused how a name (see “Sofea”) could have no codes next to it, yet a few strands of the web reaching out to it. My guess is that Wiggins does not give a code for every remark, just notable ones. This strategy would take some of the pressure off of always finding a code letter for every single thing a student says, but would require inclusion of the web spinning. It’s a personal call, I think, no matter who your favorite superhero is.
Bottom line: After looking at her classes as well as my own from yesterday, I redesigned the table and provided labels in each box for quicker reference. I think this new, amended discussion scoring rubric will serve me better next time. As for the question of grading, I’m still more comfortable with individual grades (more common with Socratics) than whole-class grades (typical of Harkness).
To create a grading scale, I simply took the student who accrued the most positive codes (insightful stars counting double) and made that the “A” bar for others to reach. If the highest scorer does not meet your standards of excellence, the high score can become a “B,” or whatever letter/number you feel comfortable with giving. Then I took the lowest (in most classes, that would be a student who said nothing or perhaps one thing) and made that the “60″ (why flunk these students if they at least listened politely?). From there, it’s easy to set up a range to cover the various grades in between.
The conclusion for all of this? You and your students will grow together. While they become stronger speakers and listeners, you will become a stronger assessor. If you tape a seminar and use it for classwide critique and feedback, all the better. Don’t be afraid to share your coded assessment of the seminar, either. Transparency will only make things clearer for your students.