Thursday, December 26, 2013

Updates on NGSS and SBG

I previously posted some thoughts on connecting NGSS to SBG.  My ending question was: Is 18-19 standards too many for SBG.  I have since concluded that as yes, that is too many.  Below is how I am tackling this now.

Over the summer, I spent a lot of time reading NGSS, the Framework, and anything else I could get my eyes and hands on.  Upon returning to plan for the upcoming year, what was hanging over my head was how to set up the gradebook.  What standards do I use?

The first thing to think about was whether to have the performance expectations as my standards, or something else.  I decided upon using the dimensions from the Framework instead as I feel that they are more lasting.  Students can work on the idea of data analysis and interpretation from Pre-Kindergarten through forever.  I see the individual performance expectations as some of the ways we can tell if students are understanding the dimensions.

I tried to just throw everything in the pot.  That gave me 8 practices, 7 crosscutting concepts, and 5-6 disciplinary core idea.  From the get-go, this seemed like an overloaded gradebook, so some pruning had to happen.

The first thing to go from the gradebook was the crosscutting concepts.  I am not saying by any means that the crosscutting concepts are not important, but I am saying that I don't see them as a "thing" to assess and report on.  I see the crosscutting concepts as themes and ideas to organize the class.

From there, I combined and cut some of the practices.  First, I cut out the practice: "Using mathematics and computation thinking."  Again, this is not to undermine its importance, but I feel students have a whole class on math that does a better job teaching and assessing those concepts.  Also, we don't have a lot of performance expectations in Life Science that requires a lot of computational thinking.  I also combined the practices of "explanations/solutions" with "arguments."  I feel these are very similar.  As one is explaining something, you generally need to use the evidence that was gathered connected with reasoning.  A good explanation is a good argument.  The same goes with solutions in engineering.

Finally, I put in 5 "Disciplinary Core Ideas."  I can't remember the exact document I used to do this.  I teach 7th grade Life Science and I used: structure and function, growth/development and reproduction, matter and energy in organisms and environments, organisms interactions, and survival and reproduction.

This gives me 11 standards total.  I don't think I have stumbled upon a lucky number or anything, but it is where I am right now.  What I still like about standards-based grading though is how having these standards keeps me grounded in what I do and more importantly what I assess.  It is so easy to try to teach a lot of stuff.  Having the practices on hand has kept me from having kids spout out a bunch of content.  Instead, I feel like we are doing more with the content.

With this said, improvements can always be made.  For next year, I will likely keep the 6 practices.  For the DCI, I will use 3 or 4, as they are written in the framework.  We don't "cover" a lot of ecosystem interactions in our class, so I think we could fit in the other 3 DCIs.

The next big step...getting rid of the overall grade so we can just focus on these standards.  We shall see how that goes.

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