I’ve really been challenged this past week to think about the way that my students are assessed. Occasionally, a student in my class is able to earn an A without having a firm understanding or mastery of the material. While I use formative assessment techniques frequently to assess the progress and pacing of the class as a whole, I didn’t have a method or means of tracking individual student progress long-term. Worst of all, struggling students don’t know where to begin when reviewing or retaking tests.
Standards-based grading to the rescue! Most commonly used in math, standards-based grading is a method to grade students based not on participation, or arbitrary points accumulated, but on a demonstration of understanding of concepts. A student’s grade on Topic X reflects their most current level of understanding of X. My impressions of standards-based vs. traditional assessment:
|Grades communicate what concepts a student understands and doesn’t understand||Grades frequently communicate how promptly assignments are turned in, and how quickly a student understands a given concept|
|Understanding matters, so there is incentive to learn the material||When “points” matter, there is no incentive to not cheat on small assignments|
The concept of grades as a means of communication of understanding is the primary reason I want to adopt a standards-based approach from now on. There are many great blogs out there that discuss the standards-based grading, but I am debating the best method of implementation in my class.
My draft of chemistry standards is here. I start with 10 big questions that I attempt to address in my course, and tried to fit the typical chemistry topics into those questions. It is much more spiraled than Chris Ludwig‘s draft, and I am not sure at this point which approach will be a) easier for students to understand, and b) easier for me to organize in a grade book. I think my approach lends itself to a portfolio assessment.