Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Final Exams in SBG

I love Standards-Based Grading. I mean, I really love it. I would marry SBG if human-grading philosophy marriage was legal (let's get on it D.C.). But here's the thing: it's VERY difficult (and completely counterproductive) to implement a single, high stakes, summative assessment (aka: final exam).

This year, I implemented SBG across all three of my classes (Astronomy, Geometry, and Physics) which means that at the end of first semester, I gave final exams that tried very hard to assess an entire semester of knowledge on a single test. All three final exams were 8 pages long and covered an average of 25 standards each. Writing the tests was hard enough. Students are given "super sized" class periods to take finals, so time allowed didn't cause many headaches.

But then came grading. 

Our finals ran Tuesday, Wednesday, and half-day Thursday with grades expected to be posted by Friday afternoon. Which meant that from about midday Wednesday (when the first couple of classes were done), I had 48 hours to grade 8 pages of non-multiple choice questions (MC is also counterproductive to SBG) for ~150 students. It was a rough couple of days. 

Looking forward to the 2nd Semester final exams, I see the need to do something different. While I do offer reassessments to all of my students, very few take me up on the offer. The core philosophy around SBG is encouraging students to show growth (hence, the reassessments). If a final exam is supposed to be a final assessment of student mastery, why not combine the two? 

Here's my thought: Forced Custom Reassessments. If I already have reassessments ready (which is true for Geometry, not so much for the other two classes), why not simply give each student reassessments on the 10-15 standards they've demonstrated the lowest level of proficiency? 

Flaws in my plan that I've already thought of:

  • Setup is going to be killer.
    • I need to custom organize a final exam for each of ~150 students. 
  • A student who demonstrated proficiency 4 months ago (by the time of the final) might not still be proficient. 
    • I know, but I'm willing to make that sacrifice. 
  • Grading could still be a pain. 
    • Sure, but I doubt it will be any worse than it was. Gotta try something. 
  • Overall student grades CANNOT go down.
    • If you only test on things you suck at, how much lower can your grade go?
  • Students will be able to focus their studying.
    • Kinda the whole point of SBG.
I would very much value some input on this idea if you could find some time to leave a comment. 

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