Homework in Standards-based grading

One of my biggest struggles last year teaching general physics 2 (calc-based) using Standards-Based Grading was my inability to convince students to practice problem solving. On the first day when I was laying out my philosophy someone said “so there’s not any homework then?” I replied that they should do homework to develop the skills and content necessary to do well on the assessments but that I wouldn’t collect it and I wouldn’t grade it. That policy has worked decently well with my upper division (think: smaller) courses, but it didn’t work as well with that bigger class. So this summer I’m trying to think of ways to get more students to do more practice/homework. Here’s my current hare-brained scheme:

Practice is your ticket

It’s a Monday, Wednesday, Friday course and I still really like the idea of only 2 standards per week and so therefore a review/assessment day on Fridays. Last year we spent ~30 minutes reviewing material based on their submissions to Google Moderator and then ~30 minutes on a quiz that tended to assess the two new standards of the week (though often hitting earlier standards as well). My thought for this year is that their work on practice problems would drive the discussion/work during the first 30 minutes, but that they could only take the quiz if they submitted some practice work.

Because it’s standards-based grading, missing the quiz isn’t the end of the world. My students are (nearly) always allowed to resubmit video assessments for any active standard. Last year the quiz was always the first assessment on that week’s standards and some students turned in reassessments later. So if they demonstrated that they’ve practiced, they get to take the quiz. If they do well, the only reason they’d ever have to do some reassessment is if I force them to during one of the two oral exams.

I’d actually like to say that submitting evidence of practice is the ticket for even the first 30 minutes (when the review happens) but I feel a little weird about barring students from class.

What does evidence mean?

At first I was thinking that students could come with some sheets of paper where they’ve worked on some problems. They’d bring them and turn them in so that they could get the quiz. They’d also use their successes and failures of their practice to focus our conversation during the 30 minute review part. But then I had a different idea:

What if the students did some practice and submitted photographic evidence. This does a number of nice things for me:

  1. The students tackle the logistical problem of photographing and submitting their work, both of which are necessary (though not sufficient) for figuring out how to do the video reassessments.
    1. Often students would not do any video assessments because they said they couldn’t figure out all the logistics.
  2. It gives me an organized way to present students (anonymized) work to the class during the review session.
    1. I like it being anonymous because we can all just look at work done to find common errors or cool tricks/solutions.
  3. Let’s me take a look at some of the work prior to the 30 minute review time.

Other possible options

I could of course just give points for homework. I tend to not like that option due mostly to cheating but also because homework should be practice, not a demonstration of mastery. I realize, though, that I’m likely being too stubborn about this, so we’ll see.

What do you think? Here are some starters:

  1. I was in the class last fall and I loved not doing homework. I don’t think it affected my learning at all.
  2. I was in this class last fall and I wish I had done more homework. Getting points for it would have motivated me.
  3. Not letting a student take a quiz seems harsh. Why not make it so that if they don’t do homework they tend to fail the quiz?
  4. Just grade the homework! Yes some might cheat, but it’ll ensure most will get the practice they need. Stop clinging so hard to your misguided principles!
  5. Why not do what Evan does, having a system of credits that students can earn to have a chance at a reassessment?

About Andy Rundquist

Professor of physics at Hamline University in St. Paul, MN
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9 Responses to Homework in Standards-based grading

  1. Hi Andy,

    I like the idea of submitting photos a lot – in fact, this might be the thing I ask students to do next year as a way to see what they are doing ahead of class in general, not just for reassessment purposes. This would serve as an activity that leads right into a review.

    I might even require this as a new way to earn credits, a system which needs an overhaul for a number of reasons that I’ll share in an upcoming blog post. Short version – showing me written homework during class is too late to know what they need.

    • Andy "SuperFly" Rundquist says:

      very interesting, Evan. I get nervous about an early due date, though this year it’s an 11:30 am course so if the due date was, say 9am I could still look at them all before class.

      On Wed, Jul 8, 2015 at 1:03 PM, SuperFly Physics wrote:


  2. achmorrison says:

    I look at this with the question of “what incentive is being (implicitly or explicitly) provided to the student?”

    If the evidence of attempted practice is treated simply as the ticket for getting to take the assessment, then I would fear that the implicit incentive provided is to scribble down “attempts” at doing homework, without putting much thought into the process.

    But with your method of using the attempts as starting points for the review, you can show that the incentive is to get personalized (yet semi-anonymous) feedback right before the assessment.

    If the students buy-in to that idea, then I think it could work well!

    • Andy "SuperFly" Rundquist says:

      those are both great points. I’m not sure how much work I want to do to determine whether they’ve tried hard enough. Ultimately I’m gunning for the students who look at a worked solution, nod their heads, and then say “yep I get this” even though research shows they likely haven’t

  3. bretbenesh says:

    It seems like the photographs are the way to go if you opt to do homework.

    Also, you could just grade the homework on completion, and maybe have some policy of “your grade drops by X for every n homeworks you fail to submit.”

    • Andy "SuperFly" Rundquist says:

      that’s an interesting idea. I would love it if I could convince students that doing practice helps them learn. Obviously points is our go-to tool to get students to do things, but I’m trying to brainstorm other ways about it

  4. Pingback: Daily quiz for practice in SBG | SuperFly Physics

  5. Jessica says:

    here’s an idea. My mentor teacher during student teaching had a system where each student kept a homework log. And every day they had hw she would go around and “check” it- not for mastery or right answers, just for completion. She would give out 3 “grades” (we can’t count hw towards a students over all grade at my high school) 0, half, or full credit. 0 = didn’t do any or only did a couple. Half = you did about half of your homework. Full = you attempted all the problems. Then before any assessments she would collect the log. And if a student did really poorly on a quiz or test they could apply for reassessment. But she would look back at the homework log to see if the student had been doing their hw, if they hadn’t no reassessment. (until they redid their hw). You could do something like this as the ticket for reassessment rather than the ticket to assess mastery in the first place.

    • Andy "SuperFly" Rundquist says:

      I like that idea, especially your point at the end. It’s a little like what Evan has done, though I’m waiting to see what he hints at regarding a future blog post.

      On Sat, Jul 11, 2015 at 10:47 AM, SuperFly Physics wrote:


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