Foundations: Standards-Based Grading, What Does an Assessment Look Like?

This post assumes you understand the basics of SBG (if you don't, check out my introductory post).  Here, I'm going to show what an SBG assessment looks like for me.  Remember, there are lots of ways to do this, I'm just showing you my way.

The Cover Page

The most critical component of an SBG assessment, in my opinion, is the list of skills covered in the assessment.  I put these skills on my cover page as shown below.

Cover page of AP Physics C Mechanics Rotational Motion Quiz in DiSanto physics class
All of my cover pages look like this.  The introduction at the top urges each student to be aware of the skills contained in the assessment to ensure they actually use these specific skills.  The central table includes the skills to be demonstrated, an area for scores from me, and an area for the students to score themselves.  At the bottom, I include the scoring rubric.

The self-assessment column is a new addition for me this year.  I have really enjoyed getting a deliberate peek into how the students felt they performed at the time of the quiz.  Some student scores are impressively in line with my evaluations, some are a desperate plea to me to be generous, some are quite harshly low, and some demonstrate a lack of awareness of any kind of misunderstanding.  The comparison of the scores is a really great way to engage in conversations with the students during extra help sessions or in preparation for a reassessment.

The Inside of the Quiz

The inside of the quiz looks just like any other assessment in a points-based or percentage-based system.  I use predominantly free-response questions in which I present a scenario, ask for quantities and leave open space for solving.  The largest visual difference with an SBG assessment is there are no point values on any of the questions.  This means no question is "worth" more than another.

When selecting problems to put inside the quiz, I ensure that the students have to demonstrate each skill from the cover page more than once.  Maybe one scenario just doesn't click with a certain student.  I don't want that to be the only opportunity they have to demonstrate what they know.  Further, I encourage students to switch to a narrative-style answer if they are completely stuck so I can understand what information they feel like they need and what they would do with that information if they had it.  This is another opportunity for the students to show me what they know.  The goal of the quiz is to get a clear picture of each students' mastery level at the moment of the quiz.

The Grading of the Quiz

This part took me a while to get used to when I first switched to SBG, but once I got comfortable, I have to say I really don't mind grading assessments any more (which is pretty amazing).  When I grade a quiz, I work from start to finish, writing encouragement on correct answers, minor corrections on mathematical mistakes, or suggestions and questions on larger conceptual errors.  I don't write out the points I'm taking off because there are no points (that's pretty lovely).  When I am done, I flip to the cover page and reflect on the student's work overall on each skill, flipping back to the student's work as needed, and fill in the scores according to the rubric.  When you are assessing each skill, you aren't looking at just one problem, you are looking at all of the problems touching on that skill and determining an overall score.

Here is a sample of one of my actual cover pages and a sample of the type of corrections I make.  The self-assessment on this one was so helpful as I could see the student had no awareness of their weakness in understanding their system, resulting in some great learning from this assessment!
Actual filled out cover page from a student in DiSanto physics class
Sample of grading a physics problem on a standards-based grading assessment
Notice, there is no composite score on this quiz.  The student doesn't earn an A- or a 92.  Instead, they earn a score on each skill. (For more details about how SBG assessments are combined into an overall course grade, I recommend you start here.)  This student in my sample struggled to solve problems using energy and momentum concepts.  Going forward, this student can focus their individual efforts on these skills and determine whether a reassessment is needed.

How Often to Assess?

Since I switched to SBG, I have made a concerted effort to assess either every week or every other week.  In AP® Physics, I assess every week as we have many more skills than in my physics course and I want to make sure each student has enough chances to demonstrate growth.  I have mentioned in my previous SBG posts that I aim for at least 3 scores for each course skill from in-class assessments, resulting in the need for frequent and consistent assessing opportunities.  Of course, if a student wants another shot, reassessments are available!

Why Do I Do This?

Each SBG assessment gives students targeted, individualized feedback to help them continue to grow, making every assessment formative!  Pretty cool, huh?

For more information about standards-based grading, please look around at my Foundations: Standards-Based Grading posts!


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