Monday, June 6, 2011

Grading: SBG and U

Math Monster
by Mister Awesome @ Flickr
Standards Based Grading to me is the idea that the teacher lays out what students are responsible for demonstrating ahead of teaching, and students have a long period during which to demonstrate them, possibly up until grades are finalized.  And students have multiple opportunities to demonstrate.  (This is a Part II to the previous grading post.)

Other people describe it better and more thoroughly.  Especially Sam Shah and Shawn Cornally.  Also please check out the beginner's wiki started Elissa Miller and the SBG gala hosted by Matt Townsley. (Note that you could be interacting with these outstanding professionals on Twitter: @samjshah, @thinkthankthunk, @misscalcul8, @mctownsley) Frank Noschese is thinking about it powerfully, too, in physics, but I haven't had the chance to interact with him about it.

I will say that I've only used it with preservice teachers so far, but they were mostly an appreciative audience for it, and would like to see it in their content classes.  I will be doing it in my content classes, starting with a graduate calculus class in the fall, but we're so pinched for math educators right now that I don't get to teach any straight content courses.

The preservice teachers have been helpful for improving my practice of it with their feedback.  If you're making the change, I'd encourage you to discuss it with your students, give your reasons, and involve them in the process.  I was only going to do it through in class assessments and similar things in office hours, but I added an SBG option to portfolio submissions and added an interview option for office hours.  The biggest remaining thing is how to communicate it better at the outset, with which the resources in the second paragraph will help.

Another Speedbump Classic
The most powerful concept to the shift has been giving the students a clearer purpose on the assessments: to demonstrate what you understand by communicating your thinking.  Much of the emphasis on the right answer is gone, as is the expectation that test questions will be trivial repeats of tasks already done.  Not that my tests were like that lately (have to go back over 20 years for one of those), but it was a bone of contention with students.  Now it makes (more) sense to them that they couldn't show understanding on a question like that.  I've had a few students reject a problem because they knew how to do it already.  (That's not the majority, but some day...)

It's different from K-12 use because in the university we see the students so much less. We give up class time for independent work outside of class, which minimizes time for summative assessment.  I struggled to provide multiple assessment points.  Put lots of former standards on assessments as choice, and polled students as to what previous standards they wanted on.  My standards were much broader than they would be in a content course, as math ed classes wind up covering things like "all of high school mathematics."  So I made my standards pretty broad, but we looked at examples of more focused grade level standards.  In the future as I reuse, I'll try to add some of those specifics as ways to demonstrate the broad standards.  I also let them know that the final grade would take into account which standards we had covered and assessed in class.  Some of the content I don't set until the preassessment is in, so it's hard to know ahead of the semester.

Here's the policy on my middle school math syllabus.
Standards Based Grading: SBG is a relatively new way to assess students that seeks to get a higher correlation between grade and understanding. On each of the objectives below, you will have opportunities to demonstrate your understanding. These objectives are a bit broader than you would expect in a secondary classroom, since we are seeing content from three years of schooling. In a secondary classroom, the teacher identifies the standard demonstrated, but in this preservice teacher preparation course you will also be trying to identify which of your work is evidence of which standard.

Scores do not mean an answer is right/wrong, but are meant to reflect how much understanding was demonstrated. It is possible to demonstrate good understanding of a concept without even finishing a particular problem. The score for each category is the average of the 2 highest scores. If there is only one score it is discounted by 1; a single A becomes a B, etc. You can reassess on specific objectives during office hours or at arranged times.

A+ complete understanding and can extend on your own
A complete understanding, can apply when appropriate
B some small difficulty applying or missing a small point of understanding
C significant difficulty in application or missing a major point of understanding
D mechanical application of ideas without understanding
F little to no understanding or evidence of understanding

Mathematical Content Objectives
A. Number: representations and operational concepts
1. Integers
2. Operations on integers
3. Rational numbers: fractions
4. Operations on fractions
5. Rational numbers: decimals
6. Operations on decimals
B. Algebra: representation, operations and modeling
1. Patterns: recognizing and generalizing
2. Variable: as unknown and changing quantities
3. Linear and exponential relationships
C. Geometry
1. Similar figures and proportional reasoning
2. 2-D figures: characteristics and sorting
3. 3-D figures: characteristics and sorting
4. 3-D representation
After a messy fall semester of trying to run parallel SBG and traditional, and a messy winter semester of struggling with full implementation, I'm very happy I came down this road.  I have four basic goals for my grading:
From Comically Vintage
Don't be a Dodo!
  • fair - reassessment helps this.
  • measures real understanding - move away from non-problems helps this.
  • not fear or anxiety inducing - students said this was a big improvement.
  • measures where the student is at the end of the course - clear improvement.
While I didn't get a lot of out of classroom reassessment until the end of the semester, I did get people using the in class assessments to reassess.  Students were more responsible for their own marks than ever before, and rather than tracking grades, they were attending to objectives. Broad over-generalized objectives, but I had to start someplace!

I strongly recommend you consider SBG, whether you be K-12 or 13-19.  If you do, let's talk!

1 comment:

  1. Working on incorporating a lot of the same ideas you have. Made up a topic/concept list for my classes and use that to label quizzes,etc. and am using reteaching/retesting to help my students. Working out really well.
    I have a student teacher at the moment, so not jumping into the idea 100% yet.