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Portfolio-Based Grade Interviews

Giving students an opportunity to self-assess and discuss their grade with teachers


Through their work in The Learning Accelerator’s Strategy Lab, the Austin ISD team used the Real-Time Redesign process to explore standards-based grading. After conducting empathy interviews with students and teachers and reviewing external research, the team landed on a strategy that not only would foster standards-based grading but also support metacognition and student agency: grade interviews.

"If we provide students an opportunity to articulate and defend their reasoning behind assigning themselves a grade, and even respectfully challenge a teacher’s grade, if they can interact with a rubric and know what mastery looks like... they can more accurately self-assess; they can reflect on their performance; and they can receive more actionable feedback from the teacher and peers. And most importantly, they OWN the learning.” - Suzanne Newell, Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Austin Independent School District


Inspired by Catlin Tucker’s book Balance with Blended Learning, Austin’s Strategy Lab team identified the concept of grade interviews as their first strategy to pilot. The team strategically identified one elementary campus that was already engaged in a process to move towards standards-based learning, working closely with their principal to ensure that the pilot aligned with the school’s vision and would be supported. With the principal, the team identified a small cohort of teachers to conduct the pilot, setting up recurring meetings to troubleshoot and document progress.

The process for implementing grade interviews requires pre-planning, but can be implemented by a single teacher on a single assignment. The process Austin ISD followed included:

  1. Prioritize standards that are most important for the grade-level and content area. These will be the focus of the grade interviews.

  2. Create a student-friendly rubric for assessing the priority standard(s). Design the rubric to include space for student self-assessment and reflection, as well as space to document the grade interview.

  3. Assess students and provide feedback using the rubric.

  4. Give students the ability to request a grade interview. Consider creating a simple Google Form. Note: requiring all students to complete the grade interviews can be useful in demystifying the process and helping build self-confidence in students who otherwise may be reluctant.

  5. Have students prepare for the grade interview by providing guiding questions and collecting evidence of learning. Consider scaffolding this by providing examples and non-examples.

  6. Conduct grade interviews. This activity is time-consuming, so plan to keep the interviews under 10 minutes.

This strategy is a part of TLA's Hop, Skip, Leapfrog release, which explores the concrete ways in which schools and systems pursued student-centered innovation during COVID-19. Explore the full guide to find additional strategies, insights, and resources.

Strategy Resources

Grade Interviews Pilot Process

To support teachers in their rollout of the grade interview strategy, Austin ISD’s Strategy Lab... Learn More