Tuesday, November 30, 2010

SBG - Standards Based Grading With Metacognition

The system that I use in my classroom does fall under the category of 'Standards Based Grading, but what I'd doing I hardly think of it as such. The genesis for what I do in my class came from determining mastery, much in the same way that the early SBG thinkers were looking at this. However, what I'm doing is focused around creating and building a learning environment and enhancing the metacognition for the student who has mastered a skill of one sort or another. SBG is generally using the same communication lines developed over the last century that were meant to communicate the standard letter grades.

Setting Up A ‘Skill Mastery Board’

I went through several trials that were less than successful before hitting on a system that was simple and integrated into what I was doing already. The first attempt was an ambitious undertaking to use every state standard outlined for my math students and I made an enormous chart where over 50 skills were listed horizontally and all 60 of my students were listed vertically. That was some 300 skills that I needed to assess the students on and determine mastery. While I created the program with great thought, it was a logistical nightmare.

A few years went by and my efforts were simplified by condensing what I was doing to make the program what it is today. It is now 12 mastery skills that represents the entire year’s curriculum in one clean and simple board. The skills are assessed through my tests that I already give, and the make-up for those who didn’t master a skill is a small project, in which pay off greatly. 

3 of My 12 'Mastery' Categories

To create your own mastery board, you must first start with a hard look at the curriculum and assessments that you are currently using. Break your curriculum into logical chunks that you intend to teach as units. Many teach from a book and that is fine, but the tests that are given by the textbook maker are not likely good enough for you to determine mastery.

Now break up your curriculum into pieces where you expect to have assessments. I currently use twelve pieces representing one-half of each of the six chapters that I teach each year. Across four grading quarters, That’s three assessments a quarter and roughly one assessment every three to three and a half weeks of class where I have nine, ten or eleven weeks in any given quarter. These twelve main concepts taught that fast may be too much, and sometimes I don’t complete all of them by the end of the year. I work to stay on pace, so long as it is what is best for the class.

Some classes don’t have such a linear progression. For example, when I taught science, I taught through a very strict inquiry-based model. All the skills were integrated and the students were exploring through experiences that I had set up for them. However, I did identify time periods where I would focus on one skill as an emphasis through mini-lessons, one-on-one work, and making that specific skill a clear and deliberate goal for us to be working on. Some of those included; data collection, asking 80 questions, measurement, creating a quality hypothesis, data analysis and drawing conclusions.

My assessments of students’ lab work and lab reports were focused on the skills that were being mastered at that moment. I would sometimes only grade in detail the skills being mastered, leaving the rest as a completion grade, when it made sense to do so. 

A View of all 12 Categories on a large 'Mastery' Wall

Creating your own 10-14 categories of skills will require your own assessment of your course, and thoughtfulness when you create your assessments, to be sure that what is being reflected in the assessment is what you and others would consider to be mastery.

The twelve standards that I have created are not very expressive and include several smaller ideas. To be more expressive, I’ve given the students their own sheet to track their skills that they have earned. On it are several “I Can” statements that outline the different kills.

The “I can” statements I also write onto the white board. I write the one that we will be working on that day in class. This is similar to a ‘target goal,’ and is a good way for students to stay connected to the mastery wall.

 This quote came from Think Thank Thunk when responding to an article in the N.Y. Times about SBG. I tend to agree with it, now lets get the message directly to the students themselves.

High Achievers?

Many people argue that SBG hurts “high achievers.” This could not be more ridiculous. You are not a high achiever, if you can’t do the work, present it well, and retain it. I’m sorry that a student used to getting A’s actually deserves a C+ based on content knowledge, but I’d rather they know that than get hit by the bus that is college.

I will be digging deeper into this mastery board concept later....

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