What are the effects of standards-based grading on student learning and behavior in the secondary science classroom?

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Montana State University - Bozeman, Graduate School


Over the last few years of my teaching career I grew frustrated with some recurring problems that I attributed to my points-based grading system. Parents and students seemed to focus more on earning points than on learning. When students and their parents came in for help they asked about making up assignments for partial credit and about earning extra credit, but rarely sought help in understanding content or mastering skills. Homework was often completed quickly with little effort, and feedback given on homework and tests was usually ignored. When I looked into the research I found that points-based grading systems were often inaccurate and conveyed little information to parents, teachers, and students to improve future learning. Many assessment experts recommended switching to a standards-based grading system (SBG). For this project three high school biology classrooms were assessed with a traditional points-based grading system for the fall semester, and then a SBG system was implemented in the spring semester. During the treatment the curriculum was broken into standards and specific learning objectives. All assignments and quizzes were tied to these standards, and short quizzes were used to assign individual grades to each learning objective. Non-academic achievement factors such as attendance, attitude, behavior, and homework punctuality were recorded separately but not included in students' academic grades. Students were allowed to re-assess over learning objectives throughout the grading period. Data collection involved an attitude survey, which was given both spring and fall semesters, student interviews, unit assessment scores from both semesters, and semester exams. I also recorded field notes to document summaries of interactions I had with students who asked for help or asked about their grades.




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