The effects of standards-based grading in the middle school science classroom

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Montana State University - Bozeman, Graduate School


In the beginning years of my teaching career, not much thought was put into a grading system. It was assumed that a grade was given as a point value that was assigned to a task and the accumulated points over a grading period determined a student's grade. A conversation about standards-based grading introduced new ideas about grading to me that seemed to solve the problems of subjective, point value grades given to students. This project implemented a standards-based grading (SBG) system into a seventh grade middle school science classroom for the period of 5 months. The goal of the project was to determine the effects of SBG on student comprehension, motivation, and attitude towards grading. Curriculum standards were broken down into defined learning goals. Each learning goal had a 4-point proficiency rubric and many opportunities for students to prove their learning mastery. Students were encouraged to reassess as many times as they wish to encourage learning, rather than working towards a grade. Data were collected through pre and post-treatment surveys, student interviews, teacher observations, learning goal mastery, and pre and post-treatment science content tests. The results showed that the implementation of SBG had no statistically significant changes on comprehension, motivation, and attitude towards grading. However, the majority of students preferred using SBG rubrics as a form of grading in the science classroom. Many of the foundation ideas of SBG, such as rubrics, sharing learning goals, and aligning assessments with instruction, will be continued to be used in my classroom for years to come.




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