Tag Archives: assessment

Unintended Consequences of a 0 – 100 Grading System

Whit Ford wrote a detailed post filled with an interesting analysis of grading systems including percentages, points, standards based, rubrics… I probably missed one but that’s plenty if I didn’t!  I am in the middle of three days of Understanding by Design training, and while we haven’t discussed grading, we have talked about assessment.  One thing that came up was that the assessment we use should change based on what we’re assessing.  They divide content into “worth being familiar with” “important to know and do” and “enduring understanding” and then claim that tests should only assess the first two, while projects should assess the second two (meaning “important to know and do” fits in both types).  This made me especially interested in this section of Whit’s post:

Assessments often include one or more questions that are more challenging than the others. Reasons for doing so include:
– as a “bonus” question
– as a confidence builder for weaker students
– to identify which students work the fastest or most efficiently
– to see who understands the conceptual as well as the rote/procedural

In such cases, it is tempting to assign more points to the more challenging question(s) either because they require more time or are more difficult. Suppose an assessment contains nine questions worth one point, and one question worth three points. Consider what happens when a student answers all questions except the three point one correctly: they receive a score of 9/12 = 75%, which could equate to a C or a D depending on the grading scheme.

I wonder if the Understanding by Design folks would suggest using a performance task to assess that more challenging question; it is tough to decide how to weight the multi-step question in a test filled with more straightforward problems.

Be sure to check out the whole post since it brings up a number of other points that are worthy of discussion.

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How Do You Assess the Big Picture?

Daniel (@MathyMcMatherso) is continuing the process of breaking down his assessment structure this week by describing what he calls Synthesis Skills.  His concern about Standards Based Grading the way many approach it (skill based assessments) is that it doesn’t include any of the multi-topic, synthesis problems: “if I ignore problems like this, students begin to see mathematics as isolated chunks of knowledge and skills that aren’t necessarily inter-related.”

In my classroom I’ve taken these problems out of tests and quizzes and given them their own category called Investigations.  Students complete the problems without a time limit, they are encouraged to collaborate and have opportunities to get feedback and resubmit.  By the end of this process, I’m never sure exactly how much of the work is that individual student’s.  Some days that’s fine: when research mathematicians solve problems they don’t do so in isolation.  Other days I worry that few students are really getting everything they could be from the investigation, while I am dragging the others through the process: asking them questions rather than encouraging them to come up with their own questions and methods.

Where do multi-faceted, open ended problems appear in your classroom?  How do they factor into a student’s grade?


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Creating Assessments: Three Types of Standards

I’ve read this post by Mathy McMatherson twice and am still trying to digest all that’s going on here.  Daniel says it best himself: “If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s aggregating posts from the Blogotwittersphere with a similar theme, even if they’re from ages ago”

So, you definitely need to go read it in its entirety, and follow the links, and then go back and read it again.  But here are a few highlights:

“It should be clear both to me and to my students what the expectations of ‘mastery’ are for that standard. Assessments should make it clear both to me and to my students where their gaps in knowledge are, as well as their strengths in understanding. Assessments should promote student-directed remediation. Assessments should provide accurate data for a teacher about the level of understanding of his or her students. That’s a lot of pressure for an assessment.

This means it’s a big deal when we choose to assess something, and its a big deal when we choose not to assess something.”

Then there is a discussion of each of the different types of standards he’s using: Procedural Standards, Conceptual Standards, and Synthesis Standards.  Hidden inside the description of Conceptual Standards is a breakdown of his tiered assessments.  Finally, Daniel speaks to the constant struggle between skills and habits of mind – details vs. big picture.  Like I said, there is a lot going on in this post.  And it’s amazing to me that this is coming from a second year teacher.  There is a depth of analysis that speaks to what this community can offer; the post has links to resources galore that Daniel has processed to create a structure that has a solid foundation in both research and classroom experience.  I’m in awe.  Go, read: Creating Assessments: Three Types of Standards

Oh yeah, since this is the Productive Struggle Blog, there are some questions I pulled from the final paragraphs:

1.  I’m still curious how other people write assessments.

2.  How do we create opportunities for our students to exceed our expectations?

3.  We’re all searching for these Level 5 Questions to give our students.

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“Being an SBG teacher in a non-SBG world”

The struggle is just seeping out of Sam Shah’s really terrific post about Standards-Based Grading and student motivation. (And I’m not just saying that because he gave us a huge shout out on his blog recently.) Check this out:

The thing is, though, I started to worry that SBG wasn’t serving the purposes I adopted it for:

1) Independence and Responsibility

2) Students learning about their learning process

3) Clarity about what students know and what they don’t know

4) Making mistakes, but learning from them

I was having, and still sort of am, having a true crisis of faith. Because if SBG didn’t address these things, what’s the point? And clearly much of this is on me. Because careful implementation is crucial and that is my responsibility. I’ve seen it be wildly successful with students since starting, students who wouldn’t have a chance in hell in a traditional class to learn and be awesome at calculus. And for those kids, the kids SBG really works for, it’s enough to keep me invested and wanting to continue. 

If you’re ever wondering whether a post is a good fit for our blog, check to see if it ends with a question. Sam’s post ends with 3 killers:

1) What concrete things do you do to keep the philosophy, spirit, understanding of SBG alive… so that it doesn’t become a mechanized system by the third quarter?

2) If you are in a school that isn’t SBG, have you found any ways to combat the notion “SBG class can come last”?

3) If you are teaching SBG in any school, what mechanisms/procedures do you have to help kids individually understand how they learn, and how SBG can help them learn how to learn better? Do any of you have individual conferences with your kids or anything? Do you have them reflect about what they’re learning (or not) through SBG regularly, and do you respond to those reflections?

It’s a great post, with probing questions and you should go to his place to check it out.

Though Sam is thinking about SBG in his post, I’m wondering whether he’s just having trouble about reassessments. Though he also talks about homework, I don’t really think of that as part of SBG. But I also think that SBG isn’t particularly helpful language right now, because it’s being used as a catch-all for at least four separate things:

  • Standards versus Assessements: Determining one’s grade by averaging scores on a list of standards rather than by averaging one’s scores on a list of assessments
  • Reassessments: Determining a kid’s grade on a standard through multiple assessments
  • Student-initiated reassessments: Allowing kids to initiate a reassessment
  • Homework Policy: Refusing to grade homework for correctness, and often refusing to grade homework at all.

As annoying as it is to urge a change in language usage, Imma go ahead and urge it. Let’s try to limit SBG to the simple grade-book change of keeping track of standards instead of assessments.

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