After a recent Global Physics Department meeting about Standards-Based Grading (SBG), I got to thinking about how I would adapt my grading scheme if I taught more than 40 or 50 students per year (which many of the teachers at the meeting were/are doing).
One idea that I had was about doing more of the student initiated assessments during class since, even if you could get 150 kids to quickly and earnestly buy in, it would become pretty unwieldy to meet with all, most, or honestly even half of them every week or two outside of class. These in-class opportunities would have to give students choice over what they want to test, but it would also be impractical for a teacher to be making 150 different quizzes each time. Even if most of the students had many of the same problems on their quiz, putting them together in nearly endless combinations would still take too long to be a sustainable practice.
But, so. My idea* is to offer a menu with a few flavors of test (say, 3 or 4) and let students choose a day or two in advance which test they’d like to have. It’s not so much trouble to make up only 3 or 4 different tests (especially compared to 20, 50, or 150). It would be pretty easy to have kids mark their names down on a sign up sheet as they left class one day, or to throw together a Google form if students were likely to use it. Here’s a quick example of four choices I might offer around this time:
It’s easy to scan ActiveGrade and see what flavors would be useful to a lot of kids at the moment (just look for vertical stripes of trouble). Here’s a snapshot of one of my Honors classes at the moment (well, a bit behind, actually, since I haven’t finished looking at the quiz they took right before they left for break, but still). Click to make it a little bigger.
So without a lot of work, it would be easy to see what the menu choices should probably be and to make up a few quizzes (tests, whatever) along those lines.
A couple of ideas for implementing this kind of menu test on a regular basis:
- Alternate weeks of teacher-chosen tests and student-choice tests. Teacher-chosen tests could still cover any objective (even quite old ones), but everyone would take the same test. Student-choice weeks would have them picking from a menu (of 2, 3, 4… whatever makes sense in the number of choices) created that week.
- 50/50 tests — Students get a choice every week (after the first few when there are too few objectives on the table for there to be any choosing), but they only choose the flavor of the 2nd half of the test. So everyone has the same first page, but they get their choice of a few different 2nd pages.
In my classes, we’ll return from break for just over 2 weeks of classes before the exam. I’m thinking about trying this method of student-choice testing to help my students feel more in control of how they are preparing for the end of the semester and to give them more than the two Sunday test opportunities to choose skills that they want to show me. I think they will like it.
Does anyone have other ideas for low-maintenance in-class assessments (or re-assessments, if you call them that) that can lower the stakes for teachers trying standards-based grading? And let me know if you try something like this in your classes (and how it works, for better or for worse…)!
* I’m sure that I’m not the first to come up with an idea like this one.