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.