SBG and Trust

In a recent blog post, Jason Buell writes about the foundation of trust in standards-based grading. Jason nails it, but I blew it.

Last year was the first time I used SBG. I didn’t grade homework. As the months passed, my AP Physics C students gradually did less and less homework. Why? I think they seemed to be searching for the balance between (1) How much work do they need to do and (2) The grade they want to get. After all, these are the brightest students in the school and probably never needed to do homework to learn and self-assess. In the past, they just did homework to get points.

By second quarter, they all stopped doing the homework . And they all failed the subsequent quizzes, meaning they weren’t proficient in most of the learning targets. Surely an intervention was required! So I broke the trust and made homework an entrance ticket for future quizzes. 80% of the homework complete allowed them to take the quiz. No homework , no quiz. Non-completers had to work on the homework during quiz time and then arrange an after-school time to take the quiz.

You know what happened? The situation became WORSE. Homework got done, but not for learning and self-assessment. Many were STILL not meeting learning targets because they approached homework the wrong way. The entrance ticket method gave my homework the undeserved reputation of busy work, despite being a carefully structured and scaffolded set of problems and assignments.

And then there were a few students who let everything slide to the end of the quarter. A quarter’s worth of homework was done hastily at the last minute and, of course, learning targets were not met.

So I admitted my mistake and revoked the 80% homework rule. Homework became completely optional again. But I had done permanent damage. While only a handful of students returned to doing homework for the proper reasons (and it showed on their assessments), the majority still did very little. I had not taught them trust and the value of meaningful homework.

It wasn’t until reading Jason’s post that I made the connection that I had broke trust and had not been good model. Thanks, Jason. I suspect next year will be much better!

17 responses to “SBG and Trust

  1. Nice post. I think everyone trying something radically different gets to the point where students aren’t doing exactly what we expect them to or responding the way we want them to so we go into panic mode. Instead of trying something different or re-examining practice & motivation, we retreat back to the way things were. That’s when kids turn back into point-hogging monsters and get the message that it isn’t about learning anymore. It certainly happened to me too & I made the same mistakes. I had to then say to them “oops! I take it back! It’s about learning, not points – I promise! Let’s go back to the trust. Please?!”

  2. A constant and ongoing temptation. I think we all go through that. I know I’m often tempted by the siren call of making everything worth points, especially for those things I KNOW will help them. So often I find myself thinking, “If I just force them to do this one thing, they’ll realize how valuable it all is and then I can go back to how I want it to be.” It’s a huge battle that we’re all constantly fighting. Thanks for this post. I added it as an addendum to my own post.

  3. This is probably what is going to do me in. I am really worried that my homework isn’t what I think it is. I like to believe that I don’t just give them an assignment because it is expected (either by me or them or principals or parents). I suppose it is something you have to go through in order to get it right. I couldn’t force myself to not give ANY points for homework last year. Even though each assignment was only worth one point, I still felt like I had to bribe them with that point to get them to do the work. I am hoping last year was the first rough draft and this next school year will be a little smoother. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Frank Noschese

    Persida: It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who took a few steps backwards!
    Jason: “If I just force them to do this one thing, they’ll realize how valuable it all is and then I can go back to how I want it to be.” This gets me all the time. How can we teach them the value of that “one thing” without the bribe of points?
    Tracie: Small changes, little steps. I think the 1-point thing is OK, as long you recognize what you are doing, why you are doing it, and then reflect on it. Let us know how things go next year!

  5. Last year was my first year teaching children. I taught adults for several years and moved down in age due job opportunities. I so wish I could do that year over and reteach those kids. I learned, probably, more than they did about how to NOT to do things. By the end of the year, I know a few kids who will be problems if/when I get them again (its a small, private school; I teach multiple grades), but I know so much more about what I’m doing. I just keep reminding myself that one bad class won’t ruin the child; I had some bad teachers along the way and I turned out okay.

    Here’s to making each year better!

  6. Frank Noschese

    Rachael:“I learned, probably, more than they did…” So true! And then there’s the stuff you won’t even know you’ve been doing wrong until you’ve been at this for a few more years!

    “Here’s to making each year better” I’ll toast to that! Thanks for stopping by!

  7. Pingback: SBG Free & Clear | Action-Reaction

  8. I realize this is an old conversation but it is very timely for me. I have eroded the trust I have with my students with regard to homework. I started concept quizzes midyear and then about 1 month in I quit grading homework and my students quit doing it. Then I flip-flipped (like you did) and started requiring it again. In my Geometry class (I teach 8th grade, these are “advanced” math kids), they are all doing their homework. In my Algebra classes, I have very about 25% actually doing their homework, the rest are either not doing it, copying or faking it.

    I hate screwing up and having to wait until next year to fix things. I’m thinking about changing the homework AGAIN but I have to convince them that it is worth doing. I am using a curriculum called CPM (College Preparatory Math) and I think the homework is brilliant because it provides spaced practice. I’m thinking about doing some of those homework problems in class instead and then giving them 1-3 problems to practice the current concept for homework. I don’t think I’ll tell them that I’m not going to grade it but I can send them feedback on the weekend (via my online gradebook).

  9. Hi. I hope that it’s OK to post a comment/question long after the original blog post. There’s not really a message board or list serve (yet!) for SBG, but I thought I’d post it here, and maybe someone would have a response.

    I started SBG in my HS physics class last year, inspired by reading the blogs of many of the SBG folks, and just my own reflecting on grading. While not perfect, I think last year went well, and my students, when surveyed, 100% liked the system, and agreed that their grade reflected their learning (even if it was a C or D, in Honors).

    This year, however, I have run into something with 3-4 students — they just don’t do the HW. Then, after the quizzes (which “don’t count” since they will be further assessed), or after a test, they decide to re-assess about 2 weeks later.

    My policy on re-assessment is that I can ask to see (not grade) their HW before a re-assessment because if they failed due to lack of HW, I’m not making and grading a new test when they remediate at all after the test. If they are as unprepared as they were on the first test, then re-assessing is a waste of time. I really only check the HW when a student was CLUELESS on a test, indicating that no HW was done. Most students miss minor points, and they fix that, which is in the spirit of SBG, and I don’t check HW there.

    Anyway, I recently had a couple of students who did no HW at all, and on the original assessments, were clueless (because they can, after all, *re-assess*). They decide to re-assess 2 weeks after the test, but when I ask to see their HW (so they won’t be clueless again), they are “still working to finish it”. So, the end result for these students — they are trying to CRAM their physics into 1 night, because they blew off the work when it was assigned, in the hopes they could just re- and re-assess. And CRAMMING is not what SBG is intended to encourage.

    I want to stick to the ideals of SBG, but here, I am really stumped as to what to do. It’s not supposed to be about playing a game, cramming for points, re-taking a test until they get lucky and pass, or my being taken advantage of. And I’d like to know another approach, so that my system doesn’t inadvertently encourage this.

    I would appreciate any ideas on how to deal with this issue, if anyone has faced it. I do know that I need to do more formative assessment than I do, but even so, when I do it, these students consider that it “doesn’t count” if it will be overwritten by the final assessment, or re-assessments. Enough with the games!

    Having said that, most of my students have embraced the system, and worked with it in the way it was intended. So, it’s just this one issue I’d like to remedy.

  10. sorry…. I mistyped a part:

    My policy on re-assessment is that I can ask to see (not grade) their HW before a re-assessment because if they failed due to lack of HW, I’m not making and grading a new test when they DON’T remediate at all after the test.

    • I like the HW check part as a ticket for remediation. When you check HW for clueless students, you might want to make the process a more intense than just a HW check. After all, they could just copy off someone, too.

      You might sit down with them and do an interview with them asking them to explain their solutions to you. A few good questions could easily tell you if a student really understands the topic and has a shot of succeeding on the requiz.Or have them do a screencast explanation of a HW problem or two. Not full-out Khan Academy style, but they have the problem already solved on paper and they are just providing a voice over of the process.

      I’d love to get to a point where I’d only give my students a quiz if I was fairly certain they would be successful. Mindless reassessing is frustrating for both teacher and student.

  11. I am doing the research necessary to jump into SBG starting next trimester. I have in mind a remediation page which gives options for reassessment, because I fear students just reassessing constantly hoping for luck or easier problems (or pity from me). My sheet, as my thoughts are currently leading, will include 3-5 different tracks for remediation with the student being given options depending on the level of work they are looking to reassess.


    • Scott — Interesting idea of different “tracks” to re-assess. What sort of tracks would those be? And —I think this is important — is that structure going to cause a huge amount of extra work on your part? I think that in re-assessing, teachers are already taking on extra work (making a re-assessment, providing extra help or extra practice, etc). But if you have to “track down” how students do the different tracks, is that going to make it a huge job for you?

      One think I like about SBG is that, to me, it changes the dynamics of grading. The ball is in their (the student’s) court. They can improve, or not, and it’s on them.

      I do find, for my own sanity, workload, and ability to stay on top of things, I need to have a deadline on re-assessing. I give 2 weeks from the time of the return of a test, and then everything is filed away. Done. By then, they have decided, or not, to do the work. I mean, if they aren’t going to do it in 2 weeks, then when? And there is no major cram-work at the end of a term, especially in a course like Physics. This probably goes against the “ideal” version of SBG, but it’s a non-ideal reality.

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  14. Happened to me also. This changed when I re-labeled/marketed homework as mini-assessments. Students received feedback and the option to get a grade. Most elected no grade, just feedback. Win-Win

  15. Pingback: Huiswerk: verplicht of facultatief? | Bernard Blogt

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