I’ll admit it, I’m changing my policies again. I’m moving more towards a standards based grading approach this year. This is a big step. I’m not completely using SBG, but I’m making subtle changes in my practice like removing homework grades and focusing more on content mastery. I’m removing a few traditional practices and adding others. I still grade projects with a rubric, specific quizzes, and unit assessments. Beyond the projects, quizzes, and tests, students are reflecting on assignments and working towards mastery. I’m finding that SBG is a step in the right direction although it isn’t the norm at my school. I believe a systematic approach towards moving to SBG is in the future, but for the time being grading policies are created by individual teachers.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been assigning less homework. I didn’t make it a goal to assign less, but focusing on student reflection and providing multiple attempts in class to master concepts have decreased the homework load. Students were surprised at first that I wasn’t “grading” the homework. I heard comments like “why do we need to complete this if it’s not for a grade?” and “so this isn’t mandatory?” Too many times I find that students focus on the grade and not necessarily the learning process. I communicated at my back to school night that homework is designed to be practice and I won’t be grading practice. After a few weeks of SBG policies, student comments questioning the change have decreased and have been replaced with a more reflective tone. Communicating SBG practices can be challenging at times, especially if students/parents expect traditional grading practices. Here (1, 2, 3) are a few different ways to explain SBG benefits and policies to stakeholders.
Another change that I’ve made is increasing the amount of formative assessments that take place in class. In my class formative assessments are a tool that’s designed to offer direct and meaningful feedback to students. Here’s an example:
I gave my students a quiz on central tendency (mode, median, range). I reviewed the results and found that many students didn’t have a clear understanding of median. Students weren’t ordering the numbers least to greatest first. So, on each paper I gave specific feedback regarding how to find certain data points. In the past I would’ve probably graded the assignment and handed it back to the students and move forward. The reflection piece would’ve been the responsibility of the student. This year I pasted this modified reflection sheet in students’ math journals. It’s in a Word document if you’d like to edit it for your specific class. Students completed the sheet to analyze their mistakes and looked for ways to improve in the future.
So far this SBG journey is paying out benefits. Students are beginning to understand that reflection plays an important role in the learning process. I believe that this is an #eduwin. I think many teachers can see the benefits of SBG, although I continue to be concerned with the long-term sustainability as students move on to middle/high school where grades heavily influence grade point averages.