Student views on SBG (January 2012 edition)

This is my second year using this different grading paradigm (if you aren’t familiar with my flavor of grading, read: Conjunctive Standards-Based Grading). I’ve made some tweaks from my first run last year, and it feels like an established system that just happens in physics here (rather than a crazy new experiment).

I’m hoping/planning to write more about my January course evaluations later (maybe after I get through exams). I especially want to write about/share the reactions to my “no assigned homework” scheme (preview: very positive! With very thoughtful responses from the kids!). After the semester exams (mine is on January 24th), I am also thinking about writing up a “State of the Physics Class” report for each class that summarizes their feedback, acknowledges what I’m hearing from them, and outlines some new ideas I have to find even better balance for everyone in class. I haven’t tried that before, and it might end up being a terrible (or fantastic!) idea. We’ll have to see.

For now, I wanted to get this new feedback on standards-based grading out there.

The Question

Consider the grading system that we use in physics class. What do you like/dislike about it? Has it had an impact on your learning and understanding of physics?
Give an example to help illustrate your thoughts.

Anonymous Student Responses

Note: any emphasis added is my own.

Regular Physics (Almost all Juniors)

At first I found it very confusing, but it makes more sense now. I like being graded by showing what I actually know, instead of what I got right, but because I get so many grades on one thing, sometimes I don’t know where I am.

I like that I can always try again and that getting something wrong is encouraged in order to achieve full understanding

It has required me to remember things for the future which is not always the case in other classes.

I feel that this whole course hinges on the exam, yes there is a safety net, but it only saves you from getting a terrible grade, getting a halfway decent one instead, when the work you might have shown through the year could have been worth a stellar grade.

I like it a lot, because if you don’t understand something and do badly on a quiz, theres always opportunity to retake that quiz.

The grading system just means a lot less stress knowing that I can fix whatever mistakes I make on a quiz later. It makes classes and quizzes a lot easier and laid-back.

I like it because it makes me keep working on objectives even though I have a two in them.

that reciving a 1 is the same as reciving a zero. which is alittle anoying becuase when you get a one it recognizes that you understand something and yet still your grade is a zero

I like it, and I think that we should do this in math too. It has made Physics less formidable than it was before. I LIKE ITTTTT.

I started off not liking the activegrade grading system but now I think it a smart system. Its nice knowing that if you don’t fully understand something now you can work on it and still get a 2 by the end. I think it is also really helpful that you make sure everyone has there 1 objectives by the end of the semester. Something that has been frustrating though has been the fact that one can’t get partial credit on quizzes.

I like the grading system for physics and I wish that other classes did the same. I really like that the objectives that we don’t master are always there for us to come back to later. I don’t feel left behind in this class because I know there are opportunities outside of class to improve my grade.

I like that there are no literal number grades. Also that if I dont do to well on a quiz one week, I can always re- assess on sunday. I like that. I also like that the number grades depend on how many 2’s you have, because it makes you want to work harder so you can get the highest grade, and the most 2’s out of all your friends.

I like the grading system in that we can always re-do our tests, but I don’t like that we only have two chances per week to improve our grade.

Well, apart from the fact that all twos got me a 90 in the first quarter, it’s definitely a good system, as well as an interesting experiment in the realm of education. Once, I taught a cat to dance. When I thought its dances were good, I’d put a give it a thing of catnip or a snack with two written on it. When the cat’s dances weren’t quite up to snuff, I’d give it a gift that was sub-par to the catnip or snacks. And if the dances were terrible, I wouldn’t give it anything, besides maybe a dirty look. I think that helped a lot. BUT REALLY, it’s a good system. It has made me realize that I must actually *master* concepts and not just remember them for test day.

I like the system as a whole and it has had a large impact upon my understand of physics. Seeing that we only pass with complete understanding of the subject and being given multiple opportunities to do so, we learn MORE at a faster rate than we would in a traditional grading system.

i like that it allows me to learn ata certain pace without hindering my grade, but it is a little confusing, and sometimes its hard to know what my current status in the class is.

It’s good, I just wish that all 2’s didn’t get you only a 90, while a single problem is dependent of the extra 10 points. If anything, I think it should earn you a 95.

its great. Its nice that if I get something wrong I am able to go back and study and improve that grade again.

I like that if you don’t understand a concept, regardless of if you got the answer, you do not get credit for that. You instead have to work at truly mastering a concept to get the credit. It’s rewarding to know you get a concept and have a 2 on it, and it helps to remember concepts longer. I had a 2 on a concept for a while and in an assessment I was given a 1 and that showed I didn’t actually fully understand it and needed to review. When I got a 2 on it again, I knew I truly understood.

I really like the grading system because you never can just forget about material you learned early in the year, it keeps re-appearing with quizzes that have old objectives.

I think this grading system is good because it shows wether or not we actually understand the material. For example, you can’t see what you don’t understand if you get a 78%, but a 1 shows that you obviously don’t have a firm grasp of the material.

I think it is hard to say we should completely eliminate grades from a class, so even when we get our quizzes back and see what objectives I got or missed I feel like I’m being graded. Sometimes also, Sunday afternoons are difficult to extra test becasue it’s an akward time. I really wish we could extra test during the week like last year, because I wouldn’t stress myself about preparing for the extra test until I had time.

Honors Physics (70/30 split on Sophomores/Juniors)

Like- how I know what I have to specifically work on
Dislike- I don’t know where my numerical grade is which helps to motivate me to improve

Even though the grading system is different and much more harder and challenging to get a good score, I’ll have to admit that it helps me a lot in learning physics thoroughly.

it is really hard to get an A in the class. First off, it is hard to adjust to the rythme of things because it is such a different kind of learning, it definitely inhibited my learning in the beginning of the year.

I like the grading system we have, because it allows me to have a second chance if I have trouble with an objective the first time.

I think that the quarter grades are just stupid and inaccurate, but other than that I think that the system is very effective in keeping students, including myself, continually improving on their physics skillZZZZ

the grading system has not really meant much to me especially because all grades are meaningless until the end of the quarter/semester. i would like it if my grade depended on more than just quizzes and tests and had some application on hard work on packets and homework but its manageable.

I don’t like that you have to show extra creativity to get about a 90. How do I show extra creativity? Especially on the exam? I’m confused and I think it would help to know exactly what I need to do. Ahhh I’m so scared of blanking out on this exam and getting something completely wrong and failing… 😦 I don’t like spiders, okay? Their furry bodies, and their sticky webs, and what do they need all those legs for anyway? I’ll tell you – for crawling across your face in the middle of the night [NOTE: this student included Buffy the Vampire Slayer quotes in every one of their responses]

I do like the grading system in physics because it lays out the work before you and the grade is entirely up to you, because you decide when or how you do the work. When something is not done by a certain point the teacher steps in, which is great because you learn the material more thoroughly.

I like it because the fact that I didn’t understand something at first doesn’t affect how my final understanding of it is judged. For example, when I study a concept that I’m somewhat uncomfortable with, my grade isn’t brought down when I understand it completely. It gives me a clear picture of what I do and do not understand at the present moment, not an average of the past and present. I dislike it because even if I understand everything we are learning, I still only get a 90. I feel like it’s not very encouraging to know that you have to take extra quizzes to prove you really know the material.

I dislike the fact that it is harder to guess where you actually are in the class but I love the fact that it is clear that you want us to succeed because that is what school is really all about. I believe it has had a great effect on how I learn physics because you make it pretty impossible to be lazy or forget something.

I do not like that if you make any mistake you get a 1. And I do not like retesting.

Different. Not sure if it is good or bad, but im getting used to it.
Consistency is a priority

It allows me to fail without feeling like I am going to kill my grade. It makes me work hard to really learn about things and to remember them in the long run.

I like that your not understanding at the beginining doesn’t haunt you for the entire year if you eventually learn. It also seems to more accurately reflect my understanding of something, like if I get something right on a lucky chance, I know I haven’t passed it yet, but if I really understand the concept but made a small mistake, the whole objective isn’t seen as a failure.

I like the objective system because it shows when we understand something yet if frustrates me when I make silly mistakes involving direction and units that cause me to fail objectives.

I dislike that a 1 basically means the same thing as a zero because it means that you havent completed the objective and i feel defeated.

I dislike the system very much. Getting a zero for a right answer that you showed your work on because it wasn’t the “right work” is not fair.

I love it. It makes me to be more perfect with physics as I keep correcting my mistakes, but sometimes it is painful when I get certain objectives wrong for silly reasons.

I like the fact that one test grade won’t hurt your entire semester grade. But I also find the grading system really frustrating sometimes.

I like this grading system a lot better because your grade is a result of how much effort you put in and how much you have learned overall as opposed to how well you can study for a test (which usually allows people to study for something, take the test, and then they forget it) and you don’t get penalized for not understanding something before as long as you understand it at some point.

A couple of my thoughts

The kids seems to be, for the most part, really “getting it”. They understand and appreciate the ideas about improvement of understanding, learning from mistakes, and working toward mastery. Several of them rightly criticize the first quarter grade (not reported on transcripts for college, etc, so not as “crucial” of a grade for them, but it still was tough for them to get the chance to show they had understanding that should translate to better than a 90 at that point in the year). I think the third quarter grade will be easier. Especially combined with the new way we’re doing quizzes (where they get to choose their quiz flavor… or at least the flavor of the side dish).

I think the increased frequency of quizzes (every week instead of waiting for the end of the unit to have a test) has also helped make the system better. They are getting more frequent feedback and feeling less stress about each assessment. That has made it easier to get them to see quizzes as a conversation between them and me about how they’re doing in physics.

See how these comments compare to last year’s. 2011

6 thoughts on “Student views on SBG (January 2012 edition)

  1. Thanks for posting these updates! I think it’s really useful to hear what students think of SBG – we’ll make sure to link here on our resources page 😀

    How much do you talk about the benefits of the grading system in class? I wonder how much of these responses are from actual introspection, and how many are inspired by a trust for you as a teacher in general.

    1. That’s a good question. I talked a lot more about it in class last year than this year. This year it was more accepted as “the physics grading”, so it wasn’t such a big deal to explain it to everyone (also I was better at explaining it since I knew exactly what I was going to do this year). I think there’s a lot of genuine thoughtfulness in their answers to all of the questions on the survey; on the homework policy questions, a lot of them brought up really good points (that I certainly never ever talked about with them) about why not assigning specific homework was great. But yes, probably some of it is influenced by my rhetoric in and out of class.

  2. Kelly,

    Thank you for posting these. In looking back between the 2011 and 2012 responses, I was wondering: have you tweaked your grading policy or assessment strategies at all in that time?

    1. The main changes between last year and this year were: quizzes every week instead of tests at the conclusion of each unit, and only having extra tests (aka reassessments) on Sundays instead of any time they wanted (which had been miserable for me and for them). We also had fewer objectives this year because we revised our first try lists over the summer.

      1. Interesting, I’m about to make a similar shift next week with my new 2nd semester courses in that assessments will be shorter, more frequent, and include old standards. I’d also like to try out Active Grade so the students have a history of their reassessments. In the end, all of this is to promote a better understanding of physics and long term retention. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t start pre-/post- FCI’ing until last year (first year with SBG) so I don’t have any data to compare pre-SBG gains to gains now and definitely not pre-modeling. Without getting near momentum, projectiles and circular motion my General Physics class had a 0.3 gain while the Honors class had a 0.4 gain. AP will take the post test sometime soon, but I expect their gain to be 0.6-ish. Hopefully, tweaking the assessment strategy and placing BFPM before CAPM will allow some of those other units that we didn’t touch to become a part of the curriculum next semester. I really like the responses that reflect the fact that you can move more efficiently through the modeling units based on the frequency and duration of the assessments.

        Do you FCI (or place any value on The Gain)? Any data to compare to pre-SBG? Of course, so many variables change year to year especially in the first years of teaching, it’s hard to get a good read as to what variables are effecting outcomes.

        1. Yes, definitely FCI. Last year (first year with SBG) I had my highest scores ever. Gains in regular classes were 45% and 60% (on average 48% the year before… and one class last year was just much much more into doing the work of learning physics than the other). Gains in Honors were 64% and 67% (gains in Honors the year before were ~55%, so that was a really nice improvement). These are after a full year of physics, not just a semester, for reference.

          I don’t think that SBG really led to these gains, though, especially since I shifted to doing full-on Modeling Instruction with Honors last year (did Modeling only for momentum and energy the year before in Honors, though I did it all year the year before in the regular class).

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