Physics & Physical Science Demos, Labs, & Projects for High School Teachers

SBG Success – Part 3 (Concepts & Quizzes)

Posted on: October 31, 2011

I think you can try to plan to implement Standards-Based Grading, but the first time through you really need to be flexible and open to change.  I didn’t start the quarter with SBG in place because I was coaching soccer and there was no time after school.  Not a good place to start, if anyone is thinking of doing the same thing.  However, once soccer ended, we were in full SBG mode.  Being that it was new for all of us, it took everyone a while to get into the swing of coming in for help and taking quizzes.

Right after soccer ended, kids started coming after school for concept quizzes.  I started throwing problems on paper, trying to get a pile of quizzes together, it was a mad-house at first.  Some days I would have 5 students all wanting different quizzes.  Each concept quiz consisted of two questions.  At least I kept a list of the problems I gave out.  It was chaos, I had to improve my methods.

I had been keeping the after-school quizzes in a pile.  One night I finally sat down at my computer and created two or three quizzes for each concept area.  I put a 31-day divider into a binder and put the quizzes in each section by concept number.  At work, I made several copies of each quiz and put them in the section behind the original.  Now when a student needs a quiz, I open the binder and pull out a quiz.  The front of the binder contains the weekly quizzes that cover from three to six concepts.  These are given sequentially every Friday.  Any of this material will be available to any teacher that requests it.  Feel free to borrow and improve, or just borrow – whatever works for you.

At first I kept their quizzes so they couldn’t share them with friends.  Once I got organized, I realized these were a valuable tool.  I created a folder for each concept and stored the quizzes in the folders.  This let me keep track of who took what quiz and what problems were giving the class trouble.

I soon realized I had to slow things down a bit.  Students would show and take another quiz after school, but not do any better on it.  I changed my method completely.  Now I make them explain the concept to me.  If they sound like they understand the concept, I’ll give them the quiz.  If they don’t, I insist on tutoring them on the concept before I’ll give them the quiz.  This has significantly increased their success rate.


The first SBG concept was Symmetry, the second was Domain & Range.  I still have several students that have not mastered those one or both of the concepts.  If I hadn’t switched grading systems, those students would have done poorly on the quiz or test and moved on.  They might have worried about the concept for the midterm or final exam.  Some of my kids have been working to learn Symmetry and Domain & Range for six weeks now, and they won’t give up.  Yes, I’m sold on SBG!

When I started this, I was really concerned about dividing the course into concepts.  I was hoping to find a concept list online, but I didn’t.  The key is to look at the big picture – not everything needs to be its own separate concept.  For example, the Power Rule is part of the Product and Quotient Rule.  You can’t do a product or quotient derivative problem without knowing the Power Rule, so it is tested sufficiently.  The book is organized well, we use Larson’s AP Edition of Calculus of a Single Variable.  So far, my concept list is:

  1. Symmetry
  2. Domain & Range
  3. Graphical Limits
  4. Algebraic Limits
  5. Continuity
  6. Infinite Limits
  7. Limit Process
  8. Product & Quotient Rule
  9. Chain Rule
  10. Implicit Differentiation

I closed out the list for the first quarter at number 7.  As I write this, we are about to start the Chain Rule and we have almost two weeks left in the first quarter.  We are adding roughly one new concept per week, most quizzes have six concepts.  I probably won’t update this post as the year goes on, but if you email me, I’ll share whatever you need to get this working for you.

I’m extremely happy with the results.  The kids are happy and they are learning calculus, not just trying to get through the course.  I think I’ve made the course a little tougher knowing they can come back and take the time to learn all of it.  I asked them today what they liked and disliked about the new grading system.  I asked them for changes, anything at all.  They unanimously said the loved the new system and didn’t want to change anything.

Personally, I’m struggling with not grading on a normal curve.  My class average is too high, but they have learned the material, really, deeply, honestly, learned it.


1 Response to "SBG Success – Part 3 (Concepts & Quizzes)"

Thanks for your last three posts on SBG! They have helped me visualize how to implement the system very effectively. I am on the precipice and ready to take the leap, but it probably won’t be until 2nd semester.

I would not worry at all about a high class average. If your class is truly about kids learning calculus (which it certainly appears to be), and if kids are happy to be learning calculus (which it appears they are), and if they are working hard to demonstrate their learning to you, then high grades are what you want!

It sounds like your students are doing everything they can to earn the grade that they want.


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