Baby steps to SBG

The other day I posted about my frustration with my 12 Physics class. One of the approaches I decided to take was to use a standards-based format. Or, at least, my interpretation of it. I re-read all the ministry curriculum expectations, and mapped them to specific concepts. For each concept I listed all available resources, and which sample questions from the text were appropriately representative of what I expected of them.Then I gave them the package and a checklist.

For each item, I have a few randomized questions that they must complete to demonstrate mastery. I gave students the option to work ahead, and made “lessons” (ie teacher instruction) optional.

The results? So far, tentatively positive. Many of them get the idea (but I suppose they weren’t the ones I was worried about), though some think it’s okay to just jump in and try a problem set without doing the legwork first. So in some respects completing the problem sets has become the focus, not the learning required to do so – but at least for the most part they are actually doing something constructive, rather than nothing at all, so it’s a start.

The exercise is encouraging enough that I may try something similar with the remaining units in my 9 Science and 11 Physics classes.


3 thoughts on “Baby steps to SBG

  1. Rick Fletcher @TRFletcher

    Without knowing the “proper term” I have been doing a version of SBG for many years in college level large lecture courses in chemistry. I clearly connect an objective with classroom content, then connect with specific followup problems. I give students a small fraction of total points for completing the problems – enough to hurt them if they blow them off but not enough for them to guarantee a good grade for simply completing. I still award a majority of points via assessment – but after each test, I go back and show the connection of each question on the assessment to an objective, and when it seems necessary, I show the mapping to the suggested problems connected to the same objective. By the end of the college semester, students see clearly the pay off for meeting the standards – but it’s college so while most of the students do fine, there are still too many who have not put in the time. In a smaller class setting and a slower pace, I am sure I could reduce the number of slackers to a very low number. The important part of the formula for me is to maintain the assessment component – and that seems to keep them learning rather than completing. And of course, lab performance carries enough weight to move them up a full letter grade – I do teach science after all, and science is still mostly about doing. I know labs are expensive and challenging outside of college but it is what makes science, well, science.

  2. Rick Fletcher @TRFletcher

    And FWIW, I help write our state science standards for K-12. We need to raise our standards as well as develop methodology for teaching to those standards. I know some US states have higher standards than others, I don’t know the Canadian system at all.

    1. ed Post author

      Each province does their own thing. Here in Ontario, there are specific and overall “expectations”, and then a sort of uber-rubric called the Achievement Chart that is supposed to set the criteria for the subject. How that actually translates to grades in the classroom varies widely, however.


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