Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Assessment: Working towards a "standards based grading"

Learn from your mistakes.

This is the idea that is pushed in my classroom and in the classrooms that I grew up in. The idea that it is important to make mistakes so that you can go back and improve on them. This idea, for the past two years, has made be continuously question the practice that I do in my class around assessment.

As a MS math teacher, I assess students consistently through formative work as well as signature evaluations that are both projects and written "tests". For the projects I was using a rubric, broken down into the categories K/A/T/C, allowing the students to see how to achieve a level 1, 2, 3, or 4. My written tests had marks beside each question, identifying how many of them would go to each category. At the end of the assessment, students would be able to see what level they received in each category... and then move on.

I didn't like this. How was this learning from their mistakes? My questions started to come:

  1. After an assessment can my students identify their strengths and challenges based on the curriculum expectations that they were being assessed on or just in the general KATC categories?
  2. After an assessment, can my student identify what concept they need to look over again?
  3. Why are my parents converting everything into a percentage? Are they unable to identify how their child is doing in their learning?
  4. Can my students move into the next unit of study and be given the opportunity to improve on their understanding of a concept AND I have record to show that they have improved?
For each of these questions, my answers were a NO. 

Due to this, I am starting to look at Standards Based Grading... with an Ontario twist. This means that I am making standards that also correspond to the categories. My teaching partner and I have tried quite a few things so far, but we are (for the rest of the year) going straight with the standards. 

Students will get a list of the standards at the start of the next unit. They will see these standards on all of the assessment, and also be given the opportunity to complete a redo/retake of a specific standard that did not go well. 

With this goal in mind I hope that students WILL be able to learn from their mistakes. First they will be able to identify the mistakes, create a review plan and then I can create an assessment that woks best for that student. It also means that a student CAN go back and show understanding when they understand it, not when the project is due. For sure, they will still do that project, but it doesn't mean that in the next unit, they might also include a question/topic that allows them to show an improved way of thinking. 

So far, I am excited. My teaching partner and I are sharing our process so far at the ISOMA conference tomorrow (in Toronto). 

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