Friday, August 1, 2014

From the Syllabus: My SBG Blurb

 It is getting on toward the end of the 6-week summer semester in college algebra, and I am once again thinking hard about my standards-based grading (SBG) implementation. As part of my reflection, I looked back at the relevant sections of the syllabus, where I spelled out in some detail what I thought my students needed to know about my SBG implementation this semester, including a bit about the philosophy, the implications, the expectations, and classroom procedures.

In event that some of it may be useful to other educators embarking on the SBG journey, and in the hope that others will share their ideas and insights, here are those relevant sections of the syllabus:

Standards Based Grading (SBG): I will be using a Standards Base Grading system to document your learning. Your grade is evidence-based, not points based, so your work will be graded based on how well it demonstrates your proficiency against the relevant learning target(s), which are available as a separate attachment. Those learning targets represent the body of knowledge to be mastered in Mth122.

I will provide SBG tasks for the most recently covered content at the beginning of each class session, and I expect you to work on them during our SBG work time whenever possible. If you are unable to correctly respond to the SBG tasks at that time, perhaps because you needed additional help with that material, you have the option to resubmit the task or submit additional evidence once you have improved your skills. Details will be discussed in class.

SBG Means Homework Matters:  Daily reading and problem assignments will be made.  These are your opportunity to practice important skills that will be reflected in the SBG tasks for the next class period. Many students find it beneficial to do their homework in the Math Learning Center (open 11-4, Monday through Thursday). That way, help is available whenever questions arise.
SBG Means Responsibility: An SBG system offers flexibility, and hence demands extra responsibility. You need to be responsible about (a) completing the homework, (b) attending class every day, and (c) seeking help when you need it, or else you risk falling behind on the SBG tasks.

SBG Means Second Chances: Sometimes, you will fail on an SBG task you attempted: that’s ok. What matters is that you are learning. Mistakes happen when you are learning. When you make a mistake, the interpretation should be: "you have not mastered this yet."
Because I value learning, I allow students to resubmit tasks that did not go well. In general, a resubmission should include:
1.       The original task, with corrections or a reworking of the task, and
2.       A concise narrative that:
       a.       Describes your mistake (was it major or minor?) and
       b.      Summarizes what you learned. (“I used to think, but now I know” works well…)

SBG Means Keeping Up: If we find that you are falling behind on the SBG tasks, I may ask that you spend extra time on campus each day to make sure you are able to get the help you need in a timely manner. I have family obligations at home and may be unable to grade a pile of last-minute SBG task resubmissions at the end of the term.

Exams:  There will be a midterm exam and a final exam. In an SBG system, exams represent additional opportunities to contribute evidence to your SBG record sheet. Plans will be announced in class shortly after the midterm exam. However, a downward trajectory in your scores over time can raise doubts about your mastery and may result in a reduced evaluation on that target. 
Grading: The SBG Targets are divided into two categories: Procedural targets and Conceptual targets. Each type of target has its own rubric (see below). Note that the lowest rubric levels earn no points, meaning the task will need to be resubmitted (or a new task attempted) to get evidence for that target. Also, Conceptual targets require correct work and explanations that demonstrate understanding for full credit.

Procedural Targets Rubric
x=Insufficient: Limited evidence for this target (0%)

1=Alert: Work contains conceptual errors (0%)

2=Developing: Work contains mistakes (65%)

3=Progressing: Correct response on basic task(s) (85%)

4=Complete: Correct response on diverse tasks (100%)

Conceptual Targets Rubric
x = Insufficient: Little evidence for this target (0%)

1 = Alert: You seem to have a misconception (0%)

2 = Developing: You made some mistakes (65%)

3 = Progressing: You left out some key details (85%)

4 = Proficient: You explained this correctly (100%)

5 = Master: You own this; you can help others (100%)
(Yes, scores of 4 and 5 both earn 100%. It’s not about the points…)

Grade Calculations: For Procedural targets, your top two scores for each target will be averaged to produce the final score the target. If only one score is available, the rubric level will be reduced by one. A downward trend over time on a target may be grounds for a reduced final score on the target. For Conceptual targets, your highest score on the target will be used as your final score in most cases. Final grades will be determined using a weighted average of the final scores on all targets. The usual scale (A=93, 90, 87, 83, 80, 77, 73, 70, 67, 60=D) will be used to assign plus/minus letter grades. 

Okay, now what?

  • What feedback can you share?
  • Which portions strike accord with you?
  • What are some implications for your own assessment practices?
  • What questions do you have?

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