Ripples & Reflections

"Learning is about living, and as such is lifelong." Elkjaer.

The Gradebook I Want

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As the MYP sciences roll into the Next Chapter and we mull over the new guides, objectives and assessment criteria, we have the opportunity to reflect on our assessment practices. The IB have provided a very clear articulation between course objectives and performance standards (see image), which should make assessment and moderation a more efficient process.

There is a clear connection between the objectives of the disciplines and their assessment descriptors in all subjects in MYP: Next Chapter.

There is a clear connection between the objectives of the disciplines and their assessment descriptors in all subjects in MYP: The Next Chapter.

Underpinning these objectives, however, are school-designed content and skills standards. These are left up to schools for articulation so that the MYP can work in any educational context and this is great, though it does leave the challenge of essentially tracking two sets of standards (or more) in parallel: the MYP objectives and the internal (or state) content-level standards. In a unit about sustainable energy systems, for example, I might have 15-20 content-level, command term-based assessment statements, each of which could be assessed against any (or many) of the multiple strands for each of four MYP objectives.

As I read more about standards-based grading (or more recently standards-based learning on Twitter), I become more dissatisfied with the incumbent on-schedule assessment practices presiding over grading and assessment. I want students to be able to demonstrate mastery of both the MYP objectives and the target content/skills but I am left with questions:

  • If they score well on a task overall but miss the point on a couple of questions/content standards, have they really demonstrated mastery? How can I ensure that they have mastered both content and performance standards?
  • If they learn quickly from their mistakes and need another opportunity to demonstrate their mastery on a single content-level standard (or performance-level standard), do they need to do the whole assignment again? What if time has run out or there is not opportunity to do it again?
  • As we move through the calendar in an effort to cover curriculum and get enough assessment points for a best-fit, are we moving too superficially across the landscape of learning?
  • More importantly, is the single number – their grade – for the task, a true representation of what they know and can do? How can I present this more clearly, to really track growth?

My aim with all this is to encourage a classroom of genuine inquiry (defined as critical, reflective thought), in which I know that students have effectively learned a solid foundation of raw materials (the ‘standards’, if you will), upon which they can ask deeper questions, make more authentic connections and evaluate, analyse and synthesise knowledge. 

Lucky we have Rick Wormeli videos for reference. Here he is on retakes, redos, etc and it is worth watching (and provocative). There is another part, as well. If you haven’t seen them yet, go watch them before reading the rest of this post (the videos are better, TBH).

……….o0O0o…………

What do I do already? 

  • Lots of formative assessment: practice, descriptors on worksheets, online quizzes.
    • In each of these, there is a rubric connecting it to MYP Objectives
      • Each question is labeled with the descriptor level and strand (e.g. L1-2a, L5-6b, c).
      • I don’t usually give a grade, though do check the work. Students should be able to cross-reference the questions with the descriptors, carry out their own ‘best fit’ and determine the grade they would get if they so desire. This puts feedback first.
    • Learning tasks usually include target content standards
  • Drafting stages through Hapara/GoogleDocs to keep track of work and give comments as we go
  • An emphasis on self-assessment against performance descriptors and content-level standards (and goals for improvement or revision).
  • I use command terms all the time: every sheet, question, lesson where possible.
  • Set deadlines with students where possible and am flexible where needed.
  • In some cases reschedule assessment or follow up with interview or retake (but not as standard practice). As Wormeli says above (part 2): “at teacher discretion.”
  • Track student learning at the criterion-level (MYP objectives), though with current systems (Powerschool), not in great detail at the objective strands (descriptors) level (e.g. A.i, A.ii, A.iii).
  • I do tests over two lessons, giving out a core section in the first, collecting and checking in-between classes. In the next session, this is supplemented with extra questions that should allow students to take at least one more step up. For example, a student struggling with Level 3-4 questions would get more opportunities to get to that level, whereas another who has shown competency will get the next level(s) up.

What do I want to do? 

  • I want to also be able to effectively track every student’s growth in the content standards and develop deeper skills in inquiry (critical reflective thinking).
  • Develop a system for better tracking learning against the individual strands within each criterion (e.g. A.i, A.ii, A.iii).
  • Better facilitate development of student mastery, allowing us to move further away from scheduled lessons and into more effective differentiation and pacing.

What would help? 

I would really like a standards-based, MYP-aligned, content-customisable gradebook and feedback system that is effective in at least three dimensions:

  • Task-level to put levels for each task, each of which might produce multiple scores, including:
    • Various target content-level standards
    • MYP objective strands at different levels of achievement
  • It would need to allow for retake/redo opportunities for any and all standards that need to be redone – not necessarily whole assessment tasks. 
  • It would have to focus student learning on descriptors and standards, not on the numbers, in order to help them move forwards effectively. Students would need to be able to access it and make sense of it intuitively so that they could decide their own next steps even before I do.
  • It would super-duper if the system could produce really meaningful report cards that focus on growth over the terminal nature of semester grading.
What would a three-dimensional gradebook look like?

What would a three-dimensional gradebook look like?

Here is Rick again, describing another approach to a 3D gradebook:

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Author: Stephen

Director of Learning & MYP Coordinator at Canadian Academy, Kobe, Japan. Formerly MYP HS Science & IBDP Bio teacher and missing it terribly. Twitterist (@sjtylr), dad and bloggerer.

One thought on “The Gradebook I Want

  1. Pingback: Are IB Schools Trivium21C Schools? | i-Biology | Reflections

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