When my colleague and I started our standards-based grading journey in the Fall of 2009, we started with a list of objectives defined years previously by a now retired teacher. Since our goal was to make minimal changes to the curriculum and focus on changing the methodology for the class, we decided to use these objectives as the starting point for our standards (which we refer to as “targets”).
What I quickly learned is that I needed to know exactly how I would provide multiple learning activities and multiple summative assessments for each and every standard. Our first unit had 26 standards! While several were lab-specific, that was way too many! We immediately appreciated the importance of defining fewer and more general standards.
How many standards are right for a unit; how many for a semester? I think the answer is different for every class, but after a year of experience, I’ve found that seven or eight standards of which one or two may be lab-specific works well for our honor-level physics class and students.
I just finished revising the standards for the upcoming Fall semester for this class. I ended up with about sixty standards for the semester. This is a fast-paced class and that is reflected in the number of standards. In comparison, my regular-level physics class will have a little more than half as many standards this Fall.
Am I completely satisfied with the number and granularity of the standards for the Fall semester? It’s definitely a step in the right direction, but, no, I’m not completely satisfied. I think I did the best I could balancing the tradeoff between a manageable number of standards from an assessment perspective and sufficiently specific standards such that students are clear on what they need to understand.
I’m not positive how I’m going to improve this aspect of the methodology, but I think the eventual solution is to move to a two-tier system. The top tier would consist of fewer, higher-level standards that are assessed and reported while being manageable. The second tier would contain many more specific sub-standards (“targets”) that students can readily understand.
Please feel free to leave a comment and share your approach for defining standards.
I just finished reading the National Research Council’s preliminary public draft of A Framework for Science Education. Since there has been some confusion, I’ll mention that this document is a framework for science and engineering education and not a collection of standards. Standards and curricula will likely be developed in the context of this framework.
As an engineer, I found it refreshing that the framework focuses on both science and engineering and the connections and similarities between them. Given the amount of time I spent as an engineer reading and writing technical documents (and the time I just spent reading this document), I was pleased that one of the practices was reading and analyzing technical documents. As someone interested in the history of science and engineering, the framework confirmed my experience that sharing the historical perspective increases students’ interest in science and engineering.
I don’t know if there was an explicit effort by the framework’s authors to incorporate the principles of the Modeling Methodology, but, regardless, the framework’s practices are closely aligned with it. Both model building and questioning are practices enumerated in the framework. I hope to better incorporate both of these aspects of modeling into my classroom this year.
In the prototype learning progressions, some specific concepts are enumerated. I was surprised by some of the concepts included. The emphasis on waves as a core idea was intriguing since, in my limited experience, sound and electromagnetic waves are not always part of a typical physics curriculum. For example, the prototype learning progressions included the concepts of modulation of electromagnetic waves and diffraction.
Overall, the framework’s architecture of core ideas, cross-cutting elements, and practices and its philosophy of depth versus breadth reinforces the direction that I believe my team is heading in physics. Of course, we’ll have to see how this framework influences the standards and curriculum developed within it.
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To summarize, I’m a high school physics teacher hoping to make time to share my reflections on learning to help others learn. I expect to focus on my interests in assessment, engineering, mastery learning, modeling, physics, standards-based grading, and technology.