I’ve been hearing about Standards Based Grading and wondering how it could work in my content-driven science classes. As there are no pre-determined standards set by the BC Ministry of Education I’ve had to create my own. However, overhauling my grade-book to reflect these overarching standards of understandings is a huge (and I mean MASSIVE!!) undertaking and I’m not quite up for that yet. But I still want to move in that direction so my first step was to overhaul my method of assessment.
I’ve decided to trial my new assessment method in my Biology 11 class. I’ve completely thrown out the multiple choice questions I’ve used for years and am now using written tests only. This has allowed me to ask students to show me their depth of knowledge for each “standard” rather than to answer single random fact questions found within each standard. In the past, I found that because I was asking pointed, one-dimensional questions that my students were “learning”…one dimensional, random facts….so very, very sad!!! Science is so much more!! They know it and so do I! I knew I needed to change my method of assessment to find a way for students to showcase their vast knowledge reserves; I needed to test them in a way that would promote learning and not just content memorization.
Here’s what it looks like: I give only written quizzes and each quiz contains almost exactly the same question(s) the students will see on their test. Each question is broad and specifically targeted to each standard. I leave more than enough space for each student to write/draw/map what they know about each topic. I let them answer the question in whichever way works for them. There is no wrong way to answer as long as the knowledge is there. The students aren’t trying to muddle through my wording on seemingly random, unrelated questions but rather they get to use their own language/images.memory map to show their depth of knowledge.
If the student wants a re-write I let each student re-write up to 3 questions. If they need to re-write more than 3 questions the student and I need to chat about their learning and what we need to do prior to the re-write to prepare for it. We actually have a conversation about their understanding and learning and the content!! So powerful!!
Its been about 4 months and the transformation in my students’ learning (and I actually mean learning not memorization of random facts!!) has been incredible. Yes, it does take more time to mark but I’ve found that I know more about what each of my students actually understands -and that to me is invaluable. Just to clarify my test are functioning in both the point/percentage based world and the standards based world as my grade-book doesn’t yet reflect the standards. I still need to provide a percentage to the Ministry in the form of a report card but I feel that the percentage I’m giving is more meaningful and actually reflects my students’ knowledge.
This is my first step in the SGB pool and I know I’m not fully immersed yet but I know I want to be! I’m happy that, at least now, I’m giving percentages based on the student’s deep knowledge rather than random facts. Baby steps right?