Friday, June 17, 2011

Flow Control

I know. It's supposed to be all about my students. I'm supposed to say something about helping them focus on learning versus work completion or helping them learn to self-assess or whatever. Yeah. That's all true. But even if that wasn't true, even if standards-based grading was no better at that stuff than traditional grading, I'd still do it.

Why? Because I know of no better way to inform me about what I need to do next. I need to know what I can do to help get a kid from point A to point B. Getting 90% on a Chapter 14 quiz or a B+ on Worksheet 1.6 won't tell me that. I need to be able to tell a student, not that he's failing, but that while he gets how to calculate the average speed of an object, he's still struggling with graphing that motion and here's something that will help.

And I need to be able to do it quickly.

Pre-SBG, I'd have needed to open up a packet of work (that's assuming I still had it or that he still kept it), flipped through each page, and then prayed that some sort of recurring pattern jumped out at me. Even if by some miracle that worked, I'd have NEVER done that for every kid on my own. It's just too much work. I would wait until a student took the initiative to actually ask me what he or she was struggling with. I'm sure I justified it as "helping students take responsibility for their own learning." Because, you know, after a student has spent her whole life getting Fs in everything, my F is the magic one that bestows upon her the gift of knowing how to respond to failure. It's like the Triforce. Now that she's collected all of those Fs she can now wish herself into being an A student.

So here's my advice for those of you who are working on standards-based grading for the summer: As you're setting things up, look at each piece and you should ask yourself, "Do I know how to respond? If I look at this, can I determine what to do next?"

When you're setting things up (or revising them) think of everything you're doing as a bunch of If-Then statements. On an assessment, if this happens, then this should happen. In my gradebook, if I see this, then I should do this. The strength of standards-based grading isn't that it gives you better information, it's that it gives you better direction.

Bonus Power User tip: Take a single question, a full quiz, your Do Now or whatever. Write out a bunch of If-Then statements. Depending on the type of assessment it might look like this -  "If you miss #3, then..." or "If you get a 2, then..." or "If you answered 8 m/s, then....." Give the assessment, correct it in class right away in whatever manner you prefer, and then put up the If-Then statements on the board.