With the start of a new semester, several of the assessment ideas that have been floating around in my brain are making their way into my classroom. I thought I might break my recent and unintended blogging silence (eleven weeks!) by sharing some of what I’m thinking, some of what I’ve done, and some of what I hope to do. Here goes…
The Beginning: Algebra 1
In August 2011, inspired by this post from Dan Meyer, I introduced SBG into my Algebra 1 class. There were some bumps along the way, but overall I was thrilled with the change. I loved being able to answer student and parent questions along the lines of, “What can Johnny do to improve his grade,” with specific comments about strengths, weaknesses, and areas to attack. (Of course, the improve-your-grade-by-improving-your-understanding-and-then-demonstrating-this-improved-understanding is already a huge upgrade over the days of old when kids—and sometimes parents—would ask/beg for extra credit. But I digress…)
I’m somewhat embarrassed of the quality of the assessments I wrote then, but it was a start. For anyone brave enough to look at that first wave of SBG assessments I wrote, enter at your own risk. (BTW, I’ve abandoned my favorite app in the history of the world—Dropbox—for the new kid on the block—Copy—because of the oodles and oodles of free space, and the seemingly comparable features to Dropbox. After a few referrals I’m at 80GB of free storage. If you’re interested in signing up—15GB + 5GB for using the referral link—go here.)
This year I’ve decided that my assessments need a major improvement in quality, so I’ve set about to accomplish as much of that as I’m capable of (while still creating resources and preparing for all of my other classes). The I’m-totally-not-finished-yet-but-have-a-look-if-you-want second wave of Algebra 1 SBG assessments live here.
I’ll continue writing new assessments for those 24 topics—the same topics I sketched out in August 2011—through the rest of this semester. Originally I just had a list of topics; since then I’ve added “I can…” statements to the course outline. However, I’ll scrap both of those in the next year or two (even with the “new-and-improved” assessments I’m writing this year) as we transition to an integrated Common Core sequence. I expect some of the topics, lessons, and assessments will slide into our new Grade 8 course, while others will make their way into the high school’s Math 1 course. Nevertheless, one major and lasting benefit I’ll carry forward from this Algebra 1 SBG experience is (I hope) a better understanding of how to write decent assessments. At the very least, I’m learning to identify what I don’t like about many of the assessments I’ve written.
That’s all for now. I’ll write again soon about “Phase 1.5,” my experience applying SBG to AP Calculus AB midway through the 2012-2013 school year.