By the end of the 2010-2011 school year I was reading a lot about standards based grading both through blogs and other research. I had already started implementing more kinds of differentiation in my final projects, and now it was time to review for the final exam: their last chance to demonstrate what they know.
We had a reading day where no formal review sessions were scheduled, but students were encouraged to make appointments to review individually with their teachers. A lot of my meetings that day went something like this.
student: what should I study?
student: what about it?
me: what topics do know really well, and which ones are squirmy? study the squirmy ones. If you've already identified a squirmy topic, we can go over that now.
student: why don't you just tell me everything you know about [topic], and we'll call it studying?
Then, a very different type of student came in. One who was both bright and resilient.
student: I noticed when I went over my work that I didn't do well here. Do you have any suggestions or resources for me to try?
me: why yes, I have a nice folder here of practice sheets. Why don't you try this one?
We did a few example questions together and the student went their merry way, promising to come back later to check answers.
In the meantime, my brain identified this as a situation like those I'd read about in standards based grading. A student attempted an objective, and received feedback that it wasn't fully mastered (in this case, the feedback came in the form of percentage points off a test question. less than ideal). They wanted to try more practice questions, and when they came back they would have a new opportunity to demonstrate what they knew about this objective. This was similar to a student-initiated reassessment!
When the student came back, I decided not to just hand over the answer key. I asked the student to explain the answers to me first. In the course of the explanations, I got some amazing insight into the thought process behind this type of problem and how the answers were evaluated by the student. The student even recognized and corrected errors, ON THEIR OWN! (ok, by this point singular they is getting a little awkward. just trying to protect a minor's privacy!) Afterward, we compared the practice sheet with the answer key and all was good. I felt like the student really demonstrated a thorough knowledge of the topic, and I said so.
Forever in my mind, this student will be the one that convinced me to try standards based grading. I want to explicitly teach my students that they can have the same kind of resilient reaction to feedback that this student had naturally. Now I just have to get better at giving constructive feedback.