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Feedback and Grading: Standards Based Grading


Standards-based grading (SBG) is a systematic approach to assessment that measures students' mastery of specific learning standards rather than comparing them to their peers or aggregating performance across a variety of unrelated tasks. This method focuses on evaluating students on a clear set of defined learning outcomes and competencies specific to their grade level or subject area. The key principles of SBG involve detailed feedback, a focus on the process of learning, and opportunities for students to demonstrate understanding over time, allowing for re-assessment and continuous improvement.

Implementing SBG requires faculty to clearly delineate and communicate the essential skills and knowledge that students are expected to acquire. Each assessment directly corresponds to these predefined standards, and students receive scores that reflect their proficiency in each distinct area. This method encourages a growth mindset, as grades are intended to reflect current understanding rather than an average of performance over time, including early mistakes. For faculty, SBG can enhance instructional clarity and efficiency, as it directs teaching efforts towards ensuring that all students meet rigorous and clearly articulated expectations. By shifting focus from earning grades to learning, SBG supports a more equitable and meaningful evaluation system that promotes high educational standards and personalized learning trajectories.


Implementing Standards-Based Grading (SBG) can fundamentally transform educational assessment, promoting greater clarity, equity, and focus on student learning. For faculty considering or initiating SBG in their courses, here are several effective strategies and approaches:

Identify Core Standards: Begin by clearly identifying and defining the core standards or learning goals that students are expected to master. These should be specific, measurable, and aligned with the curriculum. Standards should represent critical knowledge and skills students need to progress in their academic or career paths.

Create Proficiency Scales: Develop proficiency scales for each standard, which describe varying levels of mastery (e.g., beginning, developing, proficient, advanced). These scales help both instructors and students understand what is expected at each level of proficiency and how it will be assessed.

Design Targeted Assessments: Create assessments that are directly aligned with each standard. These can include a mix of formative and summative assessments designed to gauge student understanding at different points in the learning process. Ensure that each assessment clearly corresponds to specific standards to maintain focus and relevance.

Offer Multiple Opportunities for Demonstration: Allow students to demonstrate their mastery of standards multiple times through revisions, retakes, or multiple assessment formats. This approach supports the concept that learning is an ongoing process and helps accommodate diverse learning styles and paces.

Provide Transparent Feedback: Give students clear, actionable feedback based on their performance relative to the standards. Feedback should be specific to each standard and provide guidance on how to achieve higher levels of mastery.

Adjust Instruction Based on Data: Use assessment data to inform instructional decisions. If many students are struggling with a particular standard, this might indicate a need for reteaching or adjusting instructional strategies. SBG facilitates targeted interventions that are responsive to student needs.

Foster a Growth Mindset: Cultivate a classroom culture that values growth and learning over performance. Encourage students to view assessments as opportunities to learn and improve, rather than as final judgments on their abilities.



A Beginner's Guide to Standards Based Grading - On Teaching and Learning Mathematics
In this article, the authors describe the way they implemented SBG and describe some benefits and some drawbacks of this method of assessment.

Seven Reasons for Standards-Based Grading - ASCD
If your grading system doesn't guide students toward excellence, it's time for something completely different. Over the past three years, Patricia L. Scriffiny has transformed the grading system in her high school mathematics classroom by replacing the traditional points-based system with a standards-based system. Instead of assigning points for assignments, she lists student progress toward meeting clearly defined course objectives. In this article, Scriffiny offers seven reasons teachers should abandon the points-based system and adopt standard-based grading: 1. Grades have more meaning under this system. 2. The new system forces teachers to rethink the status quo on such thorny issues as homework. 3. Unlike other challenges schools face, grading is something teachers can control. 4. Standards-based grading reduces meaningless paperwork. 5. The system makes it easier for teachers to adjust instruction. 6. Students get a better understanding of how to measure quality. 7.) Standards-based grading can lead to other needed reforms.

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  • Last Updated: May 2, 2024 1:40 PM
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