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September 6, 2010

I think my first steps into trying to make assessment encourage understanding started with the idea of doing corrections. I can remember the first time I started this, offering a whopping 50% of the missed points back (I thought I was being so generous back then). Along the way, I kept lengthening my expectations for corrections in exchange for more points, until I started to offer 100% of the points missed back. All this seemed well and good, but then some students started to take the attitude that either they would never get a problem right on the first try, and this became demoralizing, to say nothing of the extreme amount of grading it led to for me.

Enter SBG and suddenly my assessments were transformed. No longer were kids trying to scrounge up enough points in corrections to raise a failing grade to a B. By leaving off a percentage grade, I could focus my kids on remediating their understanding. So I decided to drop the 7 step corrections process, and replace it with a simpler process centered on showing understanding.

Here’s what I do now:

  • Resolve the question, starting from a general formula, and explaining each step with a sentence. .It’s not ok just to write v=\frac{5\textrm{m}}{6\textrm{s}}, I want students to get in the habit of explaining the meaning of the equations they throw around:
    Begin with the equation for constant velocity:
    v=\frac{\Delta x}{\Delta t}
    Substitute in values for the change in position and time interval for the car:
  • Explain your mistake in detail with a single paragraph. Focus on identifying the hidden misconceptions that caused you to get the problem wrong.
  • Show me you really understand by explaining something else in the problem, or solving a similar problem from scratch. If you’re reading a position graph, draw a velocity graph and tell me what you can tell from it.
  • That’s it. Students who do this have their their scores on the standard that was corrected raised to a ‘3’—proficient. I’m excited to see how these corrections turn out.

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