Friday, May 24, 2013

Why SBG?

As I reflected upon this past year's AP Biology class, I decided that I wanted(needed) to make some changes in how I run the class. Maybe some drastic changes. I was very unhappy with the preoccupation my students had with their grades. Almost every time an assignment was given, students would ask "Is this going to be graded?" My response was usually along the lines of "Will my answer change the amount of work you put in? And if your answer to that is yes, should it be?"

I was also often asked the question “What can I/my child do to improve my test grades?” I felt as though students did not know what areas they needed to concentrate on the most in order to improve. And more importantly, students never worried about their learning, just how to increase their grade. So the question is: Do my grades actually reflect student learning, or are they measuring something else? How can I fix this situation so that learning is more important than a number on a test/quiz/lab/report card? And since I am required to have grades for my students, how can I be sure that learning is actually what is being measured by my grades?

All of these thought processes led me to Standards Based Grading. I am not going to go into the finer points of SBG philosophy, others have done that much more eloquently than I could (Word doc). This blog is meant to simply be a way for me to keep track of my thoughts, and maybe help some others out in moving towards SBG. Next post, I will begin sharing my standards writing procedure for my AP Biology class.


  1. Congratulations on the new blog! The question of what your grades reflect is a good one and often leads many to a standards-based approach. Our traditional grading paradigms often lead to grades that don't accurately reflect a students's level of proficiency. As well, punitive practices related to behaviour (i.e. lates) render grades virtually meaningless. Good luck and I look forward to reading your reflections in the future.


    1. I agree completely about grades not reflecting behavior. I caught myself yesterday threatening to give a student a zero on a lab for behavior reasons. I had to stop and remind myself that his eating a piece of candy didn't mean he did not perform very well on the days lab. Grades as punishment seems to be such a default position for all teachers.

  2. I am in almost exactly the same boat. Just today I was on the AP Bio Community board and David Knuffke had posted about working with others to write standards for the course as part of a SBG effort. My first response was what the heck is SBG? I have sat here for about 2 hours now reading about the idea and I like it. I understand the idea of creating the standards and setting the grade book up to reflect that what I dont really see is how I would change my class to work this way.... any pointers?

  3. My introduction to SBG was not too different. I actually had to go back through my browser history to figure out exactly what led me down this rabbit hole. I think it was a post on Science Education on the Edge that I found browsing #APBio. As far as changes to the teaching method, I have not thought too much about that yet, as I am still in the initial planning and standards writing stage. I don't think there definitely has to be that much adjustment to teaching methods, just on how we assess student learning. As I learn more, I will be sure to post here.