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My Standard Based Grading

SBG One Semester In – Physics

I have been using SBG for one semester here at ICS and it is now time to make some observations.


In preparation for this reflection, I reviewed the material on my blog site written during the first flush of enthusiasm prior to introducing SBG this year. Reading these again was refreshing, I believe I am on the way towards achieving many of my goals. I was reminded that I need to remain focused in order to bring students to a deeper understanding of concepts with fairer assessment practices that assist the student in constructing their learning.

At the end of the semester I thought it would be appropriate to ask my students to reflect on what was for them was a new experience. This has proved a fruitful exercise. The response was clearly in favor of SBG. Several students prefer the former system, but most approve the new system. I was pleased that many reflected on their own learning and assessment and gave a thoughtful reply which in itself is one of the aims of SBG. My favorite comment was a student who observed that in a traditional grading system most students get their test papers back, look at the number recorded on it and then forget all about the exam and its content. However with SBG they are encouraged to keep the paper to learn from it because there will be other chances to demonstrate mastery. Assessment for Learning in action!

Students were also asked what they liked/disliked about SBG giving me an interesting list of things to reflect on, and suggestions for improvement, some of which I will act on.

SBG was not the only change I made in Physics this school year. I also introduced a Modeling Instruction curriculum. In the words of a fellow practitioner “Instead of relying on lectures and textbooks, the Modeling Instruction program emphasizes active student construction of conceptual and mathematical models in an interactive learning community. Students are engaged with simple scenarios to learn to model the physical world.” http://fnoschese.wordpress.com/modeling-instruction/.

The mechanics of modeling involves beginning a new unit of instruction with a paradigm experiment which then leads on to formulating the functional relationship between the variables studied. From this experiment, the students are guided to build up multiple representations; verbal, algebraic diagrammatic and graphical of the phenomena. They then have to apply the model to solve related situations. I will not go into a more detailed example of modeling here, but I believe it has much to offer science education. To the extent that Modeling Instruction deals with delving deeper into fewer topics, and so is better suited to SBG, these two new aspects of my physics course are linked. In hindsight though, it may have been easier to introduce the 2 concepts one after the other rather than simultaneously.

I am glad I have introduced SBG and am glad to have had administrators support of my exploration of new pathways. For the most part, I believe the students are able to develop a more comprehensive understanding of physics through this new system



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