The question I want to answer now is why I have decided that this is the time to transition to SBG. The final jolt to go from thinking about it to planning for action was EARCOS conference . I admit that I came to the conference with a bad attitude because initially I signed up with great enthusiasm but when the time came there was nothing at the conference specifically for HS science. But as it turned out two workshops I expected least from I got most out of.
The first work shop was on Build Your Own PLN. In the workshop we were told about the many tools there are out there on the web to help us connect with others and mine for information. The most useful tool for me was Diigo “Diigo is a social bookmarking website which allows signed-up users to bookmark and tag web-pages. Additionally, it allows users to highlight any part of a webpage and attach sticky notes to specific highlights or to a whole page.” So I started to explore the web and it turns out that many people into SBG are also generous with their experience and there is a lot of information out there. Diigo allowed me to delve into the web and then form a repository to keep all that I found for future reference and tagging helps me find the stuff again. This exploration convinced me of the pedagogical appropriateness of SBG and the feasibility of implementing it.
The second was Faye Brownlie’s session on Assessment for Learning Strategies. (I find out now that AfL is another movement in education that I must find out more about). Faye made a statement in the workshop that hit me like a thunderbolt and really got my mind racing. Faye pointed out that effective feedback is a most important teaching tool but feedback that consists of nothing but a number written on the front of a worksheet or a test is not effective feedback. What does seeing 9/10 on the front of a quiz paper really tell you? What do you know when you get told you scored 95%? or 75%? or 55%? You know 95% of what? These numbers really do not have any clarity. I had to admit that a mysterious number was by far the most consistent feedback I gave and I was stopped short and forced to reconsider my practices. In the context I teach in many teachers complain that students are just grubbing for points but when percentages or points is the only feedback we give our students can we really blame them?
As I delved into it I saw that well directed feedback is perhaps the most effective tool for teaching we have (I think the education research is clear on that), but for feedback to be successful it must be more than just a percentage on a returned test paper.
So with this mental challenge before me, the help of Diigo and the fact that in April in Bangkok it is too hot outside to do anything I went exploring and came up with a plan.
The Racing Tortoise