Thursday, March 4, 2010

Wake Up Call

Wow. This is hard.

I have delved into the realm of Standards Based Grading. All I can say is...Wow.

Last summer, our district put the science departments through a curriculum writing process. The idea, of course was to see if what we were teaching lined up with the state standards. Our Subject Area Committee (SAC) consisted of all middle school and high school teachers as well as representatives from the elementary schools. It was definitely an eye opener. I had read the standards and thought I was doing what I was supposed to. I was close, but missing several key pieces here and there. I loved the process as it forced me to look at what I was TEACHING.

Now I am immersed in SBG (is that the proper abbreviation?) with my classes. This is really forcing me to look at what I am ASSESSING. Apparently, I am not doing a very good job of truly finding out what my kids actually know. I am also finding out that my objectives that were written this summer are not very clear.

"The student will describe the ecliptic." What in Merlin's name does that mean??? How vague can you get? If I can't define it, how can I possibly expect my kids to show me they have learned anything?

Whew.

So the first thing I did was write out the objectives for my first Astronomy unit. The second thing I did was write out what that student would have to do to get all four points on that target. I typed these out and gave a copy to each student.

And here was another mind blower for me. As I am writing out what I wanted them to demonstrate, a little voice in the back of my head whispered, "but then, aren't you just giving them the answers?"

Holy Shit!

I HAD A PROBLEM WITH THIS!!!

Seriously. I felt like I had been hit by a truck. I was telling them what I wanted them to know. AND I HAD A PROBLEM WITH IT. Then another little voice (I have several of those apparently) was heard, "isn't this your JOB??" Isn't this the whole point of me spending hours upon hours planning and grading and preparing? Am I not supposed to impart my knowledge onto these young men and women??

Whew. I am not sure how I feel about this epiphany. I have never consciously tried to trick a student into failing, either by not giving all the information or simply writing a bad question.
But apparently, I have not been playing on an even field. I wonder why.

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