SBG and Students Taking Charge Of Their Learning

I have adopted Standards Based Grading over the past few years, but I am always trying to refine my assessment skills. My hope has been that SBG will communicate more clearly to my students what they need to know and be able to do. Instead of a student coming to me and saying, “What can I do to improve my average?” I now have students coming to ask me, “What can I do to improve my writing skills?” This is a step in the right direction.

In the Junior High, we try for gradual release of responsibility from teacher to students. As an 8th grade teacher, I would like for my students to “take charge of their learning,” as the saying goes. In effect, one day I would like the question to be not, “What can I do to improve my writing skills?”, but “Can you help me do a better job with crafting a thesis statement?” I want students to know exactly what they have to do or know so that their questions can be more specifically tailored to their individual needs.

As such, this semester, I have created the following document that I gave to my students at the beginning of the semester.

It shows all of the skills that students will need to be able to do/understand by the end of each marking period. The students use Blue Harvest Feedback (a la Shawn Cornally, SBG and feedback guru) as a place to upload proof that they can, indeed, demonstrate each skill or understanding. Blue Harvest is a wonderful tool because it allows the students to upload by writing, taking a picture, making an auditory file, or uploading a video. Once the student uploads their “proof” I can evaluate it, with the feedback that definitely (score of 4), yes (score of 3), almost (score of 2), or try again (score of 1) they have achieved the skill. I can also provide written feedback tailored to each student’s specific work.

Here is why I like this system:

  1.  Students are in charge of their learning. They can use anything they do in or out of class to meet particular “I can” statements. They also know exactly where they stand with each learning target. They also know where we’re going with the class and can see how skills will build on each other.
  2. Students can upload work on their own time. My schedule might not be the best for them. For example, I’m having students memorize a poem and present it to the class. Instead of arbitrarily assigning one day where all students must present that poem, I told students that as long as they got it done by the end of the 5 week marking period, that would be fine with me.  Sure, that means I have to be more flexible when a student comes in to say he’s ready to present one day, but it also means my grading is more spread out. No more stacks of papers that I have to do all at once.
  3. The average represents what students CAN do, not what they can’t. But, students still get feedback regarding how they can do better. Process is still important, but it is not what is recorded in the grade book.  If I give a reading comprehension quiz in class, and students don’t do well, that practice does not count against them in their average. Students can choose their best work to turn in, not be forced to turn in all their work. 
  4. Students can’t coast through a class relying on an average of all their assignments. Each stage represents a grading period, since our year is divided into quarters. Each I can statement represents an assignment grade that would go in the grade book. If a student has not completed all of the I can statements by the end of the grading period, that student would have an incomplete for that marking period. The student would still have to accomplish all of the work.

I’d love some feedback about this system if you have time to give it!

For those of you who are parents of students I’m currently teaching, please know that these “I can” statements come from work that my colleagues and I have been developing, and we would have been working on these anyway. I’m just adding more transparency to what we would have been doing anyway.

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4 Responses to SBG and Students Taking Charge Of Their Learning

  1. tsadtler says:

    This is a magnificent guidebook for your students. The fact that they have all the objectives within sight BEFORE they start the semester is, on its own, miles ahead of what most teachers currently do. After all, if you use a textbook, typically a student won’t know what they can expect to learn from Chapter 4 until, well, a few days into Chapter 4.
    The fact that you are creating the habit in the student to consider this a “skills check-off” sheet is wonderful. And very few of the skills you list in your “I can” statements are the type of skill that they need only practice once anyway. So really, they’ll be going back to those skills over and over again.
    Finally, to share this post with your parents at grade-reporting time sends a wonderful message. We should welcome our parents into our thinking and our practice as educators. We should welcome feedback, and we should share with them what we believe will lead to powerful student learning.

  2. epdwilliams says:

    Thanks tsadtler!! One thing I’m really working on is the fact that even though these students show me once that they can “use commas with dependent clauses” they ultimately need to show me more than once because they frequently forget the rule later. I’m trying to decide how best to deal with skills that need to be shown repeatedly. My friend, Leah, also has a great idea for her I can statements; she has made a chart where she has the I can statement in one column, in a second column she lists the exercises and videos the student will do to practice the I can statement, and then another column that has examples of what students can do for “proof” that they understand/can do the skill. I’m thinking of re-vamping mine for next year to look like that, since sometimes what the students think of as proof isn’t quite enough.

  3. Pingback: A New Idea for the Gradebook | Superfluous Thoughts

  4. Pingback: ProTip Wednesday: 7 Easy Standards-Based Grading Hacks | Higher Order Teaching

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