Disclaimers: I did not invent Standards Based Grading, I did not come up with this system 100% on my own, I was/am a huge advocate for it in classrooms, and I do love Dan Meyers. Also, this is all my opinion. I will site things when necessary so you know I am not just making things up. Check my other posts!
“Alignment” or “Making sure what you say you are teaching is what you are teaching and what you are assessing”
In my little world of Standards Based Grading, I call my objectives (the ideas I am teaching) concepts. But, before we get into that, I want to talk about alignment.
One key idea is to make your objectives truly be, one objective. A class I took in either college or grad school on assessment really stuck with me. We worked a lot on aligning our objectives to our assessments. At this point in my short career, I would describe myself as a nazi (no disrespect) with alignment. I am proud to say that I really do plan my units using the Backwards Design approach.
If your test is aligned with your teaching, which is aligned to your objectives, then your assessment is a “valid assessment.” If the problems on your test do not match what you are teaching that week or if the test has extra information they have to process, then that is not aligned and your assessment is not valid. If you catch yourself saying, “they can figure that out” or “they should know that,” then you may not have your objectives/teaching/assessments aligned. Your students are taking an assessment on what you taught them, you can’t assume they know or are strong at something you didn’t teach them. Think of that sweet kid who studied so hard for what they thought was going to be tested and then you threw a curve ball at them! The stress/defeat they must feel isn’t fair.
Having assessments that match your teaching which match your objectives, gives you “valid assessments” and allows students to know what they will be assessed on. I also think by making everything clear and out in the open the kids will better understand what that objective/concept/skill means and they will be stronger with their understanding of the material and vocabulary. It’s also easier for them to prepare if they know what they really need to know.
Now on to concepts and objectives…
“Concepts” or “What you are going to teach and give a special name or number that you will have to keep track of”
That being said, you want your objectives to be small enough where it is really one thing they need to know, but big enough where it takes some thinking- it’s not just regurgitation of a procedure or algorithim.
For example: Simplifying Radicals & Cube Roots
I teach Algebra in Virginia so we use the Virginia Standards of Learning for our curriculum which have us teach the following: The student will express the square roots and cube roots of whole numbers and the square root of a monomial algebraic expression in simplest radical form.
This year’s concept list originally excluded the last part accidentally (basically writing the unsimplified version of the simplified radical) and was split into 2 concepts: Simplifying Square Roots and Simplifying Cube Roots. To add the excluded part, the concept “Simplifying Cube Roots” also contained what we referred to as “Going Backwards.” Next year these will be fixed by either separating it into 3 concepts, or adding the “Going Backwards” aspect into both the square and cube root concept. As you can see, the concepts are specific with out being too small.