Quick Reflection on SBG
I’ve implemented SBG this year – an almost identical version of what Dan Meyer’s Assessment Consortium page recommends. I have lots of things to think about for next semester (which maybe I’ll have time to post about soon), but I had a moment today that highlights one of the things I think I really like about SBG:
The traditional grading labels – A, B, C, etc – are practically useless. They’re replaced by ‘Excelling’, ‘Proficient’, ‘Approaching’, etc. As a byproduct of this, grading gray-areas are practically eliminated. The term ‘I’m a C student’ doesn’t mean anything in SBG. The term ‘I’m good with these concepts, but need work on these ones’ does.
These are two things I really like about the holistic idea behind SBG and the way that it forces me to grade and how it forces my students to think about grades. It also helps having these ideas in mind when I assign grades and when I explain it to my students.
Here’s what made me think of this: I was talking to a student today about his grade. He’s used to being an A/B student in his classes, but in my class, he’s had a low to mid B the whole semester. He wanted to know what he could do to raise his grade to an A. We talked about why he had the scores that he had – he and I agreed that the thing that’s holding him back are sloppy mistakes (forgetting negatives is a big one). I pointed out the grading documentation that I’ve had around the room and on different handouts I’ve given him: getting perfect scores on assessments means no sloppy mistakes. I told him this was intentional: In my mind, an A student is a student who doesn’t make sloppy mistakes. They are careful and check their work and make sure they have the right answer. a B student has convinced me they know what they’re doing, but hasn’t convinced me that they can do it perfectly every time.
My student nodded his head and said “So no more forgetting the negatives. No more sloppy mistakes for the rest of the year. Gotcha. I’ll start taking my time and be more careful”.
I like that my answer wasn’t “do these homeworks” or “turn in this extra credit” or “do ‘better’ on the next test” (whatever that means). I don’t think I could have this conversation with such ease, clarity, and consistency without SBG. If I’m lucky, SBG has fundamentally impacted the quality of work this student will produce so it will be a true reflection (in my eyes, at least) of an A student.
PS – in case you’re wondering, I have very few students with A’s. Most of my students are in the 70’s. If they’re not, they’re in the 50’s. Very few are at that borderline D/F area – another reason I like SBG: very little room for gray area.