Looking back at SBG (December, 2019)

Method: In 2013, I started using a standards based model for assessment. The first class I did this with was Math 10: Apprenticeship and Workplace. I examined the IRP and split the class into 32 standards. For each standard I made an assessment with 5 questions of increasing depth. See (Proptions Assessment, and Pythagorean Assessment.) These were then graded these out of 5 and the marks were recorded as percentages.

The average of the 32 standard assessments formed 80% of a student’s class mark (this is when we still had provincial exams), with the remaining 20% coming from cumulative tests and “binder checks”.

I used this method with various modifications for most math and science classes I taught from about 2013-2018. I didn’t use it for robotics or computers as those courses seem to work well with a system of weighted assignments. Each assignment containing so many standards that parsing them would not be helpful.

Reflection: Ideally a student’s grade would perfectly reflect their ability in the subject matter and nothing else. This ideal is much closer realized when using a standards based approach. It allows students to see their current ability in each standard and do something to show their ability has improved (by taking reassessments).

Using this model the best way for a student to improve their grade is the course was really to improve their ability. This had not been the case in more traditionally graded courses I had taught where the best way for a student to improve their grade was often to re-do or hand in an assignment they already knew how to do.

The danger of the standards based approach is to become too atomic, to focus on each standard individually and miss the connections between them. To miss the forest for the trees. This was a problem with all versions of this method I instituted. Two ideas I tried did not overcome this problem.

The cumulative tests I created served mainly to ensure students were keeping some of the knowledge from previous assessments fresh, not asking them to combine standards. The final problem on assessments in some versions of this model was explicitly made with connections to other standards, but this made the questions hard to generate, the difficulty variable, and many students simply skipped them.

The focus on indivicual standards became a bigger issue as BC switched to a new curriculum. With more emphasis on big ideas and content competencies over content, a model with laser focus on specific content was no longer appropriate.