Active SBG

SBG is all about description and specificity, but “SBG” doesn’t describe what I’m talking about when I say “SBG.”  Here’s the problem:

“Standards-based” means “organized into topics,” but we’re doing more than that.  When we talk about letting students improve and show their improvement, we’re not just talking about organizing information.  When we talk about breaking kids of their addiction to points, we’re not talking about adding 20 columns to a gradebook.  When I talk about SBG, I’m talking about a philosophy of empowered students who have control of their education and their grades.

We implement this philosophy by organizing our feedback into helpful topics, making sure that our students can understand our feedback, and allowing students to react to that feedback.  You (not you, of course, but one) can implement SBG without any fundamental changes to your philosophy, and students in an SBGed course may still chase points, so “SBG” is not enough.  I think we need a new term.

“Active SBG” means:

  • In conversation with students, emphasizing the learning that grades represent, and trying to avoid holding grades as the final product of education.
  • Allowing students to react to their grades.  Grades are the beginning of a conversation, not the end.
  • Helping students to understand their grades by organizing them into topics (vanilla SBG).
  • Actively keeping students informed by assessing their skills often and giving them feedback as soon as possible.

After reading this list, can you see why “standards-based” wasn’t cutting it?  Joshg wonders “whether SBG really means anything without a slight philosophical shift,” and countless others blog about the “philosophy” of SBG.  “Active” is a great word to sum up the extensions that SBG needs to really shine – active student involvement, active feedback, reactive grades.

Most importantly, active SBG means that grades are used as one of the catalysts for learning in a class – that even though all that’s going on your report card is a single letter, the 100+ hours of imagination, concentration, and sweat are the real prize.

5 thoughts on “Active SBG”

  1. An excellent distinction (contrasting I presume with Passive SBG, where you are graded on each topic, but then not challenged to improve).

    You also have created a good slogan for it:

    Grades should be the beginning of a conversation, not an end.

  2. I also like the idea Grades should be the beginning of a conversation, not an end. That’s a nice philosophy. Now for the hard part: how do we achieve that?

    Does breaking the grade into 10 or 20 different topics help? or does it foster a reductionist attitude toward learning—that everything is discrete and independent of everything else?

    Does allowing lots of reassessment help? Or does it focus kids on point chasing?

  3. I likes this as well. Does it play well with people talking about “active learning”? I’m still trying to wrap my head around that buzzword, but it seems to generally mean “getting kids to do stuff in class that isn’t just listening to you lecture”. eg. group work, discussions, problem solving, hands-on stuff, etc.

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