This is the fifth post in a series about my journey with Standards Based Learning and Grading.
It’s all about learning…standards based learning
Standards set? Ready to jump in? Awesome…bring on the learning!
Once learning standards have been established, they must be unpacked for all stakeholders. This involves breaking them down into manageable pieces that relate to instruction, knowledge, skills, and understandings. For me, know, understand, and do statements create meaning out of standards that can seem a little overwhelming to students. These statements are easily adaptable for entire units of study or particular standards. I use them to guide instruction and learning experiences in my classroom. My students use them to inform decisions regarding formative practice and pacing. The know, understand, and do statements serve as checkpoints along the journey to mastery.
Standards based grading is something that has transformed my classroom into a true learning environment. Points have disappeared, as well as grades on formative assessment. We simply learn, practice, apply, connect, assess, rework, revise, and reassess.
This may sound wonderful, and it is a huge improvement over what I had previously done with grading, but let me be clear…this was not an easy road!
But despite the challenges of writing standards, developing scales, working with (and at times against) our computerized gradebook program there was this excitement. I felt that this new system would be a game changer for my students, and I was right.
No longer did my students and I discuss points, extra credit, homework, or the value of assignments. The conversations were centered about learning – where they were in the process, what our goals were, and how to achieve those goals. We replaced percentages, numbers, and letters with meaningful feedback for growth.
Sometimes my students struggled with the new system, having spent their elementary school years with a traditional grading program. In the beginning of the year there were a lot of questions and some push back. But when we got to the end of the year, I read my students reflections and talked with them during the last weeks of school. Things had changed! They enjoyed a year without the high stakes of grades infiltrating every assignment and assessment. They sought learning over grades, with the assurance that once you achieve the former, the latter will follow.
Why standards based grading? I believe it is imperative for the future of our children. It teaches them perseverance, responsibility, and to focus on learning. We are in this business to create lifelong learners, right? Then the time is now, we cannot wait. Our students deserve more than just a letter or a number.
Over this past school year, I started to uncover the value of feedback over grades. The truth is, feedback is everywhere in our lives if we would just look around. It is essential for our growth and improvement, but too many times it is missing or at the very best lacking in our classrooms.
There are many ways for everyone in the learning community to garner feedback. Teachers provide it for students and vice-versa. Students give feedback to each other, and there is much to be said for teaching kids how to self evaluate and improve their learning on their own.
The book I am currently reading, Role Reversal by Mark Barnes, has wonderful information and insight on this topic. I find myself agreeing with so much of what he says about feedback and grading. Grades are competitive in nature, but feedback elicits growth. Isn’t that what we are looking for? Student growth and learning must be at the heart of what we do. Barnes recommends using the SE2R method which is as follows: