In my Standards-Based Grading post last weekend, Anon Y. Mous asked that I explain the rationale behind each of the core guidelines involved in the S.B.G. system. I think it’s a good suggestion and here is the seventh core guideline. Please comment with any corrections as I am still learning this new system.
When students are expected to produce specific products and to demonstrate designated skills, they must know exactly what is expected of them. The learning targets (the standards) must be written in a way avoiding any confusion. While this may seem obvious, the standards used in some states can be quite confusing and up to much debate. We must clarify the standards for our students.
Additionally, this is an ideal time to use anchor papers and other exemplars of the student works to be produced. Allowing students to view what they will be creating provides a mental picture, a framework, from which they may build. I keep a binder of thesis papers organized by grades for my students to peruse during their paper writing processes. Plus, I have file folders of student sonnets, songs, diction analyses, and more for my students to read when working on assignments.
Furthermore, clear and common rubrics should be used for assessing student work. These rubrics, along with the anchor papers and exemplars, allow the students to identify exactly what they will be expected to do. Having students score exemplars is another excellent means of familiarizing the students with the rubrics and, by proxy, the learning standards.
As students progress through the process of reaching the learning standards, the students should be provided frequent feedback as well as allowing the students to use the rubrics with their in-progress products. Thus, the students can monitor their own progress while the teacher acts as a facilitator and clarifier while teaching. If rubrics are well-written and clear, students can easily assist one another throughout the process.
I absolutely agree with these ideas. I provide my students the rubrics on the same day I assign the project, paper, or other product. From the very beginning students can see what they will do, how they will be assessed, and then made agents of those assessments. It’s quite a rare moment when a student does not know what is expected or how to reach the learning targets. My rubrics and processes are not perfect, but I am improving them every year and rubrics and exemplars are a large part of these successes.