Day 102 – Reason #102 Why I Like SBG

Physics 11 – Today I had a student that has his ups and downs in physics come by and be assessed on a couple of learning objectives. I know that he knows more than what he shows in testing and I just have to draw it out of him. I was able to give him several situations where he had to draw the force diagram and tell me if the forces were balanced or not. He would work through them, talking while he thought about his answers, correcting himself as he went. He did very well on both of these objectives and I was able to score both objectives as Mastered.

With SBG I can do this type of assessment quite easily. It’s not about how many points the test is out of, I don’t need to give him a “chapter test”, etc. He identified two objectives he was ready to be assessed on, and that’s what happened.

My students have a grade/list of assessments that tell anyone what they know in physics. It doesn’t rate the students, it doesn’t judge how fast they learned it, or how many times they failed. If someone wants to assess them on those qualities, they are more than welcome to do it, but I’m not going to.

Day 16 – Tracking Grades



Physics 11 – Students had their first quiz today. I also showed them how they will be keeping track of their grades this year. The idea is that on any given day, they can look at their learning portfolio and see what they are getting on each learning objective.  Each learning objective is rated on a scale of 1 to 3.  When reporting term marks, the latest rating for each learning objective is used to generate a grade (percentage).

More on my flavour of SBG can be found on my PhysicsOfLearning Blog.

If I was smart, I’d rename my grading scheme from SBG (Standards Based Grading) to LOBG (Learning Objective Based Grading).

Day 35: Cell Concept Mapping



Science 8 Today I returned the students’ concept maps they did for cells. Prior to doing this cmap the students completed a form which described each organelle. The purpose of the cmap was not to test memorization of the organelles but to see what kinds of connections kids could make between them. It’s one thing to copy down a bunch of words and quite another thing to actively link different ideas and key words.

To scaffold concept mapping, I first do a gallery walk of about a dozen large concept maps completed by senior students and undergrads. We then discuss the features that seem to make up a good cmap. Students really like the idea of a cmap needing to be clear and easy to read. We also talk about the purpose of a concept map, and how it is primarily a tool that a student can use for learning. In this sense, a crowded cmap may be better than a neat and orderly one.

The worksheet I used is here: Cell Concept Map
The worksheet gives another set of examples, which I use to stress the importance of links. Links are not just randomly drawn lines between key words, but are expressions of understanding. In order to demonstrate and clarify understanding, words and descriptions have to be written along the links.


This student produced a wonderful infographic that did an excellent job of communicating her understanding. I love getting stuff like this, it shows just how capable students are. I spoke with this student about trying concept map next time, but I couldn’t fault her on her work.

In terms of assessment, I didn’t really give a grade for the cmaps. I did give feedback on four aspects: topics (subsuming old ideas with new), organelles, links, and link descriptions. Most research I’ve read recommends to not grade cmaps, and I agree. However, I did take the organelle aspect from the cmaps and use it to rate their organelle learning objective (SBG grading of cell unit)

Day 16: Introducing SBG

All four of my classes today were introduced to my flavour of Standards Based Grading.  The grade 11 students were pretty interested in it, whereas the grade 8 students didn’t seem to care one way or the other.  That doesn’t surprise me, as I’ve noticed that the younger the students, the less they care about how their grade is calculated or how learning is measured.  The 8’s are still fairly bright eyed and bushy-tailed, and are genuinely interested in what we’re doing and not what their grade is.


Our learning objectives will be graded on a scale of 1 to 3, where their mark will ultimately be calculated from the final grade they achieve.

Day 11: Burnin’ Up

Today in science 9 we had our first introduction to SBG. Students wrote a short quiz with 7 questions and 2 learning objectives. While self-marking, overheard comments were things like “I got 6 out of 7”, or “is this only 1/2 a mark off?”

Once presented with the SBG scheme, the usual silence ensued followed with the obligatory question “so by the end of the year, it’s possible for me to get 100%?”

The last 20 minutes of class was spent good over Bunsen burners with kids frantically trying to get a spark with their strikes. Press harder kids, press harder.