Getting started with #SBG in Bio #flipclass – Not perfect YET!

Last summer I worked to rewrite learning outcomes of Biology 12 into “I can” standards  and move away from point collection. I wanted to have student friendly language that described what the student should be able to do by the end of the course. I say by the end of the course, as all standards are in play all semester and students may demonstrate mastery of standards at anytime.

I divided the standards into core (students need to show mastery in all these for B range) and advanced (into the A range). I decided on this division based on what students have struggled with in the past. When we cycle back (as I do several times throughout the course of the semester), some students have breakthroughs and are able to put it all together in a flash.

We established 4 levels for the standards: Mastery, Progressing, Starting, and No Evidence.

Note – This student used BLUE instead of GREEN.

I then gave all the standards to students in a duo-tang so they could track their progress throughout the semester.

Students used highlighters to track themselves (red=stop, yellow=caution, green=go) and the duotangs were the catalyst for our “hot seat” conversations as a student headed into an assessment.

Example of standards for cell biology unit:


A1. I can recognize and explain the function of each organelle. I can relate the role of the organelle to parts of the body.
A2. I can look at micrographs and diagrams of organelles and correctly id them.
A3. I can write, work with and explain the balanced chemical equation for cellular respiration.

A4. I can explain how organelles function to compartmentalize the cell and move proteins and lipids through the cell.

I like how she moved to colours in the second column.

What worked well:

1. Students used standards to have conversations with each other.

2. Students could ask for help in specific areas.

3. Students have a strong awareness of where their weaknesses and strengths lie.

4. Students focused on what they could do rather than on their mark.

What I want to improve:

1. How to do justice to the standards and generate a meaningful percentage.

2. Standards are still too “raw” and obvious, which leads to students consuming content in bite size pieces rather than knitting it together into something of more depth, interest and meaning.

3. Find a way to use standards to communicate with parents in a meaningful manner.

4. Let go of more of the trivia of the course and replace with enduring understandings.

5. Increase my confidence when working with SBG. I still was shaky on how exactly it was going to work; students DO NOT like that.

Note: My work on Standard Based Grading is modified, blended and adapted from @kellyoshea, @samevns,  @bennettscience and @mrsebiology and I thank them for their diligence in documenting and sharing their work.

7 thoughts on “Getting started with #SBG in Bio #flipclass – Not perfect YET!

  1. This really hits the mark and use of the standards to have students verbalize the skills they are expected to master makes a great deal of sense. Ownership of the learning!

    • Yes, it is a step in the right direction, still have further to go on this journey away from points. I realize though that you can’t make everything perfect the first time through so I am happy with how it went.
      Thanks for your readership and comment,

  2. Carolyn… love your leadership on this. You do so much more than what the typical “flipped” classroom is. I am trying to start the SBG conversation with my school and am wondering if you can point me to any resources that have helped you. You have mentioned the tweeps above but am wondering if you have any posts or books/videos that have helped you? Again, thanks for your inspiring leadership!!!

  3. Hi Chris, thanks for your comment and enthusiasm! I am so grateful that people blog about their classroom practices as it has led me to so many amazing ideas and changes. I can’t really believe it possible!! My number one inspiration for SBG was She explains everything in detail, and has links to other’s work. I also tried using when I was getting started and the process helped me to shift my understanding. Another key was that I had 100% support from my admin, that helps a lot!
    Hope that helps set your SBG project rolling a bit, I look forward to seeing how it progresses at your school!

  4. Carolyn – many thanks for sharing your first year of “the change” with the rest of us. Next year will be my first year, and I am finding your words most helpful. Thank you.

    Question: you mention using ActiveGrade when you were getting started, but the implication is that you stopped using it at some point. I wonder why you stopped, and also, if so what you moved to from AG.

    As a fellow teacher in BC it is good hearing this from a familiar perspective.
    Thanks again.

  5. p.s. oopie…I forgot….

    Question 2: how did you change your student records in AG into provincially prescribed report card marks? Did you keep a “side mark book” with test marks? but this seems counterintuitive to AG, as students could keep retesting until in the green zone.

    Thanks, Carolyn

    p.s. another sense of connection with you: my first teaching job was at KSS (and my first year was the year of the fire!) which I was surprised to find bulldozed when I drove through Kelowna last summer.

    • Hi Trin, I am glad you find the blog helpful. I no last summer when I was looking to change I read a whole bunch of teacher blogs, it is amazing how helpful they can be. In regards to Active Grade, you can get Active Grade to calculate a percent for you your end of term percent marks that you are required to give. I found I did not have the energy to keep up with Active Grade with everything else I was doing. So I used a simplified spreadsheet with the standards for each unit, students kept a paper copy that we would use for a conversation around “where they were at”. I think more than anything that is what I took from this shift, was that assessment should be a conversation rather than a list of marks and assessment is something done with the student not to the student. I still do give tests, I have to give a final exam still, and I do mark these. Students can reassess, if they apply and qualify. So in the second semester my marking scheme was a blend of standards based grading and points (derived from tests). The changes I am making are transitional, I will re-vamp for next year again, and would like to move completely into using Active Grade, drop traditional testing, and am considering open source testing.
      Good luck!

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