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My SBG Story

My journey towards Standards Based Grading started about a year ago (Fall 2011).  It just so happens that is when I discovered the Physics Education Blog world.  As I have stated in previous posts I give a lot of credit to Frank Noschese and Kelly O’Shea for many things I’ve picked up in the last year.  In terms of SBG I give these two ALL the credit!  I started reading their blog posts and ideas about what SBG is, how it works, and most importantly how to implement it.

2011-12 School Year
By about November last year I was convinced.  This is the way I needed to go.  The problem was of course changing “in-year.”  However, I am lucky because I just so happen to teach a Physics 2 class which is only 2nd semester.  My roster for this class was entirely seniors.  So I decided to experiment.  I presented the grading system to my 13 students as just that, and experiment.  My principal supported my idea without needing much convincing.  He just warned that I had a well documented plan to have on file.  Their wasn’t really any initial backlash from students or parents, so I considered that a victory.

I did run into some initial struggles, but nothing too major.  Our school has really pushed student and parent involvement through monitoring grades online,  so when I didn’t have a good way for that to happen I had some issues.  I ended up printing paper copies for each student ever couple of weeks.  I used ActiveGrade from the beginning to monitor and track students progress for myself, but I never explored it enough to figure out all the details (like how to allow students to login).  This is something that I have since resolved.

The other problem I had was creating well worded and good standards for units on Light and Waves.  I found plenty of good examples for mechanics, but not these.  I ended up relying mostly on the “Unit Goals” from the Modeling curriculum.  I did this in-semester rather than planning ahead, and that proved to be a challenge.  This will be much better this year, as I have my goals written going in.

Overall, my 13 seniors liked the idea of NO HOMEWORK and a weekly quiz for me to see where they were at.  They realized the quizzes were low pressure, but still worked to do well and get mastery scores.  I didn’t do official “reassessment requests” each week, but a couple of time during the semester I gave the class larger assessments, where all the problems were optional.  Students opted to complete only the questions that were relevant to the goals they hadn’t mastered yet.  I also did a reassessment assignment that included students video taping themselves working through a problem.  Only a few took me up on this offer, but those that did did a nice job of explaining what they knew.  I was able to tell if the truly “get it” or exactly where their conceptual breakdown occurred.

By the end of the semester students saw my grading system in a positive light, and I never had to defend it once to an enraged parent!

2012-13 School Year
This fall I have expanded my use of SBG to my Physics 1 class.  This class is a year long and consists entirely of Modeling Mechanics.  A lot of work has been done by other already to establish a system and standards for the Modeling Mechanics material, so naturally I relied heavily on that.  Below I have links to my Student/Parent Handout as well as my Goals for each mechanics unit.

If all goes well this school year I am planning to make the total change over to SBG next year, expanding to Chemistry as well.  I plan to continue to post idea, questions, and thoughts as they come up this year.

Learning Goals Based Grading

Physics 1 Learning Goals

2013-14 School Year 
I have again expanded my use of SBG to my Chemistry 1 classes in addition to Physics 1 and 2.  I’m really excited about using SBG in chemistry this year as well.  I saw how much it helped and focused my physics students last year, so to see that extend to chemistry will be good. 

The one big change I’ve made in my system is that I’m going to a 3 point scale for feedback purposes as opposed to using a 2 point scale.  The scale is defined as:

3 (Green) = Mastery has been demonstrated

2 (Yellow) = Developing Mastery – This indicates you are missing a minor piece of conceptual understanding, and/or that you have made a minor error in your reasoning process.

1 (Red) = Minimal Mastery – This indicated you are missing a major piece of conceptual understanding and/or you have made a major error in your reasoning process.

0 (Black) = No Data/Attempt

I’m going to use the colors on students quizzes and other assessments to try to get away from the “points-system” altogether.  The point values will simply be for ease in entering scores into ActiveGrade.  Although the scale changes students will still need to reach the “green” level for me to count the goal as mastered.  The yellow and red levels will better help me provide feedback for my students.  Giving them a more quantitative measurement of if they are close or far away from mastering the goal.  Last year I used the Yes/No scale and No was everything from minor mistakes or thinking to complete lack of understanding.  I wanted a better way to help students know exactly where they stand.  We’ll see how it goes.

I’m also attaching my revised document explaining Learning Goals Based Grading to my students and parents, and my Goals for Chemistry 1.

Chemisrty I Learning Goals

Learning Goals Based Grading – Explained


My Modeling Story

When I finished my undergraduate studies in 2004 I had no knowledge of Modeling instruction.  I began teaching my science classes in an interactive, but very traditional way.  It didn’t take me long to realize there must be a better way.  As with most of us, I consider year one as a mulligan, I survived, and that is about it.  During that time I was employed at Brillion High School in East Central Wisconsin.  My assignment was mainly Freshmen Physical Science.  During that first year, a colleague of mine, Ryan Peterson, invited me to the local Physics/Physical Science share group meeting where I meet Scott Hertting, Dale Basler, Greg Franzen, Jeff Elmer, and many others who were talking about this Modeling thing.

My interest was sparked!  Those guys had so many awesome ideas and seemed so passionate about the way they taught, it was contagious.  I continued to struggle through year one, and finally it was over.  The next school year I was given the responsibility to teach physics along with physical science.  Scott Hertting was gracious enough to meet with before  school started that year and shared almost all of his materials with me, and explained even more about Modeling.  After blindly learning as I went I could see the effectiveness of Modeling, despite my own short comings.

It was in the spring of 2007 when I received my first formal Modeling training when I took a class at UW-Oshkosh with professor Mark Lattery.  One summer later (2008) UW-Oshkosh began its MSE C&I program in physics.  For the next three summers I studied the “ins and outs” of the Modeling Method from some of the best teachers around.  Included in the Masters program was an Action Research project.  Two other teachers and I studied the effects of “Grading Discussions in a Modeling Physics Classroom.”  In 2010 I earned my Masters of C&I in Physics.

During the summer of 2008, in between my Masters studies, my career took me to a new school with a new teaching assignment.  Bloomer High School hired me as their new Chemistry and Physics teacher.  It was at that time when I began to explore the Modeling Chemistry curriculum, and have never looked back since.  My current class schedule consists of Chemistry I and II, and Physics I and II.  All 4 classes I have designed to use Modeling Instruction.

Future posts will describe each of my classes and how Modeling fits into each.

Welcome to iModel iBlog

My name is Brad Wysocki and I’m a high school Chemistry and Physics teacher at Bloomer High School in Northwest Wisconsin.  This school year is my 9th overall teaching  and 5th in Bloomer.  The students I work with everyday are the reason I continue to do what I do.  I enjoy getting to know my students on a personally level, challenging them, and seeing them succeed in my classroom.  I’m always looking for new and innovative ways to help my students learn and understand science better.

Outside of school my time is spent mostly with my family, my wife of 7 years, and two boys (ages 3 and 5).  I also enjoy all sorts or athletics,  especially baseball, golf, and football.  But all of that is not what this blog is about.

During in-service before school I decided I would make the jump into the blog world.  Thanks to the influence of science teaching bloggers such as Frank Noschese (Action-Reaction and Noschese 180), Kelly O’Shea (Physics! Blog!), Rhett Allain (Dot Physics), and Ms. Bethea (TEACHING Chemistry) I’m going to give it a try myself.  I’ve benefited greatly by reading all of the above blogs plus many others.  Each has influenced my own teaching practices in many ways such as activities I use, how I model, and even how I grade.  So if any of you find your way to this blog I must say THANK YOU!

I plan to use this blog to share thoughts, ideas, strategies, and pose questions about physics and chemistry Modeling Instruction as well as my newest experiment, Standards Based Grading.  Ideally I make a post at least once a week, but you never know if it will happen more or less, we’ll see.

Thanks for visiting.  Please feel free to leave a comment about