Fun times in class surveys: SBG edition

This is the third part in my year-end survey analysis. In prior installments, I discussed the overall picture of feedback in AP Biology and Honors Chemistry. This time, I’ll discuss feedback from both classes related to the Standards-Based Grading systems that I use in both classes.

I’ve written quite a bit about the SBG systems that I use, why I use them, how they are similar, and how they differ between courses (anyone who wants that background can go search for it in the archives). Even though the two SBG systems I use have some major differences, my surveys on the topic were almost identical.

Students were asked to indicate how strongly they agree (on a 1-5 Likert Scale) with a series of provided statements:

I understand the Standards-Based Grading system.

AP Bio Mean: 4.2

Honors Chemistry Mean: 3.6

The Standards-Based Grading system gives me more responsibility for my grade than a traditional system does.

AP Bio Mean: 4.3

Honors Chemistry Mean: 3.9

I have a better understanding of what areas of the course I understand from the Standards-Based Grading system

AP Bio Mean: 4.3

Honors Chemistry Mean: 3.8

AP Bio Version: Revision of work was a useful feature of the Standards-Based Grading System Honors Chemistry Version: Reassessment of work was a useful feature of the Standards-Based Grading System

AP Bio Mean: 4.3

Honors Chemistry Mean: 3.7

I would recommend that the Standards-Based Grading system remains in place for next year.

AP Bio Mean: 4.7

Honors Chemistry Mean: 3.6

Students were also asked to provide (optional) feedback on the SBG Systems used in both courses.

AP Bio Comments:

  • Although we used the SBG all year, sometimes I was unsure if what I received was a "good" grade.
  • More opportunities to get above a 3. I felt in Honors Chemistry there were may ways to get above a 3. Even though the grade itself doesn't particularly matter its always a nice confidence booster getting above a 3.
  • I appreciate that the Standards Based Grading system places much of the responsibility on me as a student to determine my grade. I also appreciate that my Standards Based Grade is based on my participation in class and work that I complete during class as well as at home as opposed to solely being based on my test and quiz grades.
  • I think that the Standards-Based Grading system is extremely helpful and allows students to take an initiative to be responsible for their actions and participation in class.
  • Personally I don't like standards bases grading. I understand its practicality and its usefulness, however, because it is generally graded out of 3; meaning the highest grade you can receive is a 3 on most everything, it skews some of the perspective of the numbers. The system really works as a whole for student reflection.

Honors Chemistry Comments:

  • This was an eye opening new way of grading that I truly appreciated. It got rid of ridiculous numbers and gave you an actual feel for what you really needed help in. When you get a 50 on a generalized quiz, you "failed". When you receive a poor standard grade, you have several opportunities to redeem and learn, almost an invisible hand of teaching you the material. This is the future.
  • The Standards-Based Grading system was very beneficial to my learning experience in Honors Chemistry. In past science classes, my performance on tests and quizzes was based solely on the memorization and regurgitation of materials. It was not necessary to actually comprehend the material. With the Standards-Based Grading system, I understood the lessons more and gained a better idea of what I needed to study. It also left me feeling like I had a more active role in determining my grades. Overall, I really enjoyed this innovative grading system.
  • I think maybe a percent grade should be included along with a standards based grade. That way you can see how well you're doing with the task and also see where you grade lies in.
  • I hate it.
  • I do recommend the standards based grading system for next year's students. It took some time to get used to this, however it came to be understandable. I honestly liked that I would not have to stress too much because I can always reassess. When busy times of the year came around and we had weekly quizzes, if I did not wish to care I wouldn't have to. We all have bad days and we can fix those by reassessing. It did give me less responsibility for my grade because, as I said, I did not have to care as much about what I did receive. I do think you should have given us weekly quizzes with multiple choice questions sure we can have some practice with those before the tests. It did feel better to receive a .5 instead of a 50 as a grade, but did not strike the same feeling a 50 would. It hits the student more and wakes them up when they see a failing grade instead of a .5, but it was a workable system.
  • I feel that people do not get a real feel for what their grade is. I believe it should be normal grading like other classes
  • I found the Standards-Based Grading system extremely helpful. Actually, when I studied for tests I would pull up active grade to see which areas I need to review in. The only thing is that I feel as if the standard based quizzes did not cover enough on the topics that we covered.
  • It was perfect. It truly measured you not based on an outdated system of 1-100 numerical scale. It allowed you to be stress and be penalized for the main entity that teachers yearn for, learning.

Overall, I think these ratings and comments support my larger project with my SBG system, by providing students with a mode of assessment that increases feedback, and personal responsibility for learning. As an instructor, this is reassuring. It’s always nice when reality and perception match up. I’m also quite happy to see that the SBG implementation in AP Biology has gone so well in its first year.

At the same time, I am struck by how grade-focused some of the students still are. Even in AP Biology, after two years of SBG, some students are still trying to map a standard score on to a grade, or otherwise use a standard score as a “carrot and stick” type of extrinsic motivator. That must be frustrating, if for no other reason than these students are really trying to do something that can’t be done.

The comments are particularly useful to me as I make my revisions to my course policies for next year. To help reduce this focus on numbers, we are doing away with numbers from our SBG systems in both classes, moving instead to a “Red-Yellow-Green” rating system (unfortunately, I’ll still have to map these color to a 1-2-3 in ActiveGrade for the purpose of score entry, but perhaps by not using those numbers in our feedback, we can help students move away from focusing on the numbers over the feedback). I’m also going to try to remember to stress how different the SBG system is from the traditional system more regularly, in the hope that the repetition will sink in a bit more going forward.

But these are all really minor points. On the whole, our SBG systems are well-implemented, and doing exactly what we want them to do. Excellent.

I'm taking suggestions: Glossary of terrible terms

Fun times in class surveys: Honors Chemistry edition