Why I Am Falling In Love With SBG

This year I have been following Frank Noschese’s “Keep It Simple” Standards Based Grading model (you can find it discussed here) in my Physics class. This is my first venture into SBG, and to be honest I am falling in love with it.

So as not to drown on and on about it, here are two reasons why:

1) Students can display their knowledge without necessarily getting the question correct. As an example, on a quiz today students were asked to calculate the speed of a wave moving across a spring. To paraphrase the question, “two students hold a spring stretched 5 meters between them. If one student shakes the spring at a rate of 15 waves in 10 seconds, what is the wave speed?”

There were decidedly different answers to the question. Some students assumed that the spring would display 15 waves across the spring, others decided that the spring may display a standing wave with varying numbers of nodes, resulting in some different calculations of the wavelength.

At the end of it all, students were able to explain how they arrived at their answer using well-versed explanations based upon what we observed in class and in lab. Even though there were 3 different answers given to me, not one of them appears to be incorrect based upon the students interpretation and the display of the correct knowledge of wave behavior.

In traditional grading, students would have been marked wrong, for not getting what I got. That doesn’t seem right to me.

2) It has made me much more reflective on how I assess in my other classes. As of now, I still use more traditional methods of grading in my other classes. As I go through and mark papers, quizzes, exams, labs, etc. I see how ineffective it really appears to be. Assessment and grading should reflect what the student knows about a topic, not their ability to regurgitate what I am thinking about a problem. It should also provide the opportunity for feedback and growth as a leaner. It should allow them to fail, only to later increase their knowledge as they come to understand a topic.

If you read the comments on the “Keep It Simple…” blog entry, you will see a lot of great discussion back and forth about the merits of SBG v. Traditional and vice versa. In the end, like our method of instruction, it has to be genuine for us as educators. We have to believe in it, or our kids will not believe in it.

Still, my average semester exam scores in Physics were over 90%.. The average in my other classes, was below 80%. Is it because of the grading system? Only time will tell.



3 thoughts on “Why I Am Falling In Love With SBG

  1. I had just finished what to me was a very successful first year using SBG and was full of ideas about tweaking and improving what I did when it came to a shuddering halt when an administrator (who was leaving the school) said I was not to use SBG next school year. It was too different from what other teachers did and it confused the parents too much.
    What I would like help with is what are ways to fly SBG under the radar? What are the non-negotiable elements of SBG and what can I do without? I am basically looking to keep as much SBG as I can and avoid unnecessary conflict with the administration.

    • Best option, sit down with your principal and discuss it. Bring evidence, data, and a plan. I did so, after flying my attempt under the radar last year, and I got approval to count SBG for 75% of the students grade this coming year, in two courses.

      • Thanks for that. I have got the new principal to accept a dual system where the kids gets to choose which system they will use to be graded on. I have accepted the extra hassle because I believe the clear value of SBG will win out sooner rather than later. From what I have seen so far I am convinced that as students see the benefits of how SBG lets them focus on the ‘next step’ of what they need to master, the demand for a traditional score will fall to a small minority.

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