Foundations: Standards-Based Grading, Getting Started!
Before diving into the steps, please make sure to check out my post introducing SBG! It will give you a good idea of the overall system before you start implementing some of the items recommended here :)
1. Create your Course Skills
"Size" refers to how much work or demonstration each skill requires of the students as well as how many skills you want to have per unit of study. This is a personal preference thing. For me, I like to have at least two and at most five skills per unit with a unit lasting anywhere from around a month to two months. Each year, I revise my skills to make sure I don't have any overlap between skills as this can make assessing them separately quite hard. Further, if I find that I am not assessing a certain skill very often, I question whether it should be present at all or if I should absorb it into another one. You may have noticed that my skills vary by unit, meaning we add skills to our "toolbox" as we progress through the year. This works really well for a quantitative course such as mine. My husband teaches French (a little different than physics, non?). He designed a set of skills he uses all year long. I am actually a bit jealous of this set-up as the students don't have to adjust to new skill terminology as the year progresses; the assessment criteria remain constant and clear. Sigh.
The language and tone of the skills are absolutely up to you. I like to write the skills as if the students are saying them in an effort to jump-start some of that student ownership. In addition, I try to make them as concise as possible while also incorporating the physics vocabulary. I love the style of Kelly O'Shea who really got me started on this whole process. I have used many of her skills in my physics course, and I don't want to repeat her awesome work here. So I will share my first semester AP® Physics C skills which I have been trimming and modifying for a few years. I will get into the scale at the top of the image later in this post.
future post, I will delve into how to incorporate these skills into the students' vocabulary and work. It is so helpful for promoting skill acquisition to have the names as part of their regular language.
2. Pick an Assessment Scale
3. Decide How to Calculate and Communicate Grades
- You can consider only the most recent score for each skill.
- You can take the average of only the most recent three scores (assuming you assess each skill more than three times) for each skill.
- You can take a weighted average of scores favoring more recent scores. There are many ways to do this.
- You can create a composite grade based on the number of skills mastered.
- You can come up with your own unique way!
4. Decide whether Reassessments are for you
5. Create a Clear Grading Policygrading policy document was (and still is!) my foundation for everything and got my students and me through the newness of it all. I created this from a template from Mr. Chris Vicevich. I referred to it constantly both in class and during one-on-one sessions, and by the end of the year, almost everyone understood the policy and the purpose behind it. And I say almost quite honestly. I know there were a few students who didn't buy in or just didn't get it. Years later, there are about four teachers using SBG now (which I think is pretty cool!) and we are much more consistent with each other. This greater presence on campus has led to more immediate comfort from my new students. Further, the students have talked to each other over the years so many now know coming into my room for the first time that DiSanto has a different (but not bad or scary!) system. Time and communication have truly quelled anxiety and many students appreciate the transparency of this system.
Before I wrap up, I want to share a warm fuzzy from one of my students a couple of weeks ago. I take pictures of things like this to make the less awesome teaching days a bit better. :) On a reflection, he wrote the following:
These five steps are by no means official in any way as I came up with them based on my own experience. I have said this before. This all sounds like a lot of work, and it absolutely is quite substantial at the beginning. But I hope you see the value of this system and think it's worth the investment! I will continue to add more SBG posts in the future. Writing this one has made me think of other areas to explore, like what an assessment looks like in SBG. Stay tuned!