@mgarcia, @d.vendramin, and I are continuing our conversation about standards based grading today as we look at overcoming some of our habits that might be getting in the way.
As a student I was most familiar with a grading system of averages and earning extra credit for bringing in supplies. This is very different from what standards-based-grading hopes to accomplish (clearly communicate what students know and are able to do).
Whether you are in a building that is centered on standards-based-grading, or are looking to maintain this kind of learning environment in your classroom, we’d love to hear what mentalities or habits you have to work to break free of and any suggestions you might have for others!
I don’t give grades but proficency levels with the hope that students will want to improve. The biggest obstacle is the mindset that where they are is where they stay and encourgement to try again isn’t getting through. They also want to know what their grade is all of the time - many are still learning how to work with the feedback. No one else does this so they are used to seeing the grade and that is the end of that topic.
GoFormative is great for my upgrades for those students who chose to improve though, and it is one of my favourite ways to use it.
We have all been trained to be motivated by grades. How many times have you heard after assigning an activity, etc., “Are we getting points for this? How many?” Some of the students would think about the value of the points and determine their effort and or whether they wanted to do the activity based accordingly. Trying to push a paradigm shift has been challenge. Not everything we do in the classroom will or should have points attached, especially formatives, which are supposed to drive and inform instruction. I explained it to my students in this fashion. If I teach you how to catch a football and throwing you the football, you drop it, should I give you a zero because you dropped it? No. The teaching occurred, I threw the ball the formative–the catch or drop–showed me the teacher and you the student that you didn’t learn. Why? Maybe I need to revisit my own technique on how I taught you. The problem for decades has been where the blame was on the student, whereas now the learning and/or lack should be shared responsibility by the teacher and the student. By removing the stigma of the “quiz” and “points” the focus is on the acquisition of skills and mastery thereof. Once the teacher and student know that the skill is mastered, then test him/her, with a summative–or to use the extended metaphor in the football game Friday night. The students seemed to understand and buy into this analogy. The problem: not all educators believe in it and consequently, the learning process suffers.
I love the sports metaphors too- its one that my students best understand, but I agree - they are conditioned to value school work based on the points and the grade earned. (Their parents often reinforce this idea too)
It does help if you can have a whole building buy-in together and help reinforce this way of approaching and valuing learning.
Do you get to be at a school with this mindset? Are there similar grading practices throughout the school or does it vary by teacher? What have you been able to try with your coworkers to introduce a new way of doing grading?
I have a principal who has spent the last several years building a FIP environment that incorporates Learning Targets, Formative Practice, and Intervention for those students not learning. He supports us by modeling, encouraging, and offering time to meet with our PLCs (Professional Learning Communities), which are arranged by content area and/or grade. I am blessed to be in a PLC that works like a clock, each member bringing their own level of experience and talents. Together we look at data, look at what worked, bounce ideas off of each other and plan on how to improve instruction. Our principal likens the PLC experience to the tv show “House” where the doctors never work in isolation but bounce ideas off of each other to solve even the most challenging situations.
This is one of the areas where gamifying my classroom has really worked well. Instead of working down from a grade, we all start at zero and level up as we move along in our standards. This also allows me a lot of leeway as students who are at a novice level for one particular standard may be experts at another. Student motivation to improve stems from the atmosphere itself since ranks in our game come with perks and having your whole guild at a certain level opens up other possibilities.
I totally agree with this! It is very difficult to shift students’ mindsets from being grade grubbers to actually pursue their own learning. However, I think that having conversations with students about the benefits of the standards based learning environment is key to getting buy-in from students and parents.
A little late to the rest of this conversation, but I am working on improving my SBG. I currently use it in Math and give five levels from Beginning to Advanced. I am thinking about removing those and just doing feedback, but trying to find the most time effecient and timely way to do that. What I found most useful though is that the kids realize that an assessment doesn’t mean the end for me. They can use the feedback and improve then show me their greater mastery and improve their level. I also do conferences for report cards so the students help me to determine their actual grade (still need those) - some have even convinced me with proof that my initial grade assessment was too low, and changed my mind. They need to reflect on what they have done and their next steps.