Update on the new #SBL scheme


Here’s the plan as it is now:

Step 1: Students complete some learning activities! Sometimes these are whole class, teacher directed (like a 3-act or something). Sometimes they are individual, student paced (like a guided handout). All activities exist on a Blendspace page for each learning target. If an activity covers multiple targets, it exists on multiple pages.

Step 2: Students complete some practice (usually). If a learning target is not easily assessed in a multiple choice or numerical response question, this step can be replaced with some reflection questions, like “what did you learn from activity ____ ?”.

Step 3: Teacher conducts brief “interview” with each student to check for understanding. The student should be able to show their completed activities and practice work, AND be able to explain what new skills and learning were acquired. (Note: this earns the student Level 1 on a target)

Step 4: Students take a separate quiz on each learning target. Some LTs will be better suited to multiple choice or numerical response, and some will require a constructed response. Possible results:

  • Student aces quiz, earns Level 2 for the LT
  • Students misses one or more items on quiz, keeps Level 1, but does not level up. To earn a second shot at the quiz, student must complete any extra learning activities (as there are usually more than the required amount), or redo the practice, or both.

Step 5: Students reach Level 2 (have aced the quiz) for ALL LTs in the unit. Then, and only then will they gain access to the Level 3 task. This task covers all the individual LTs and is never computer graded. An example from Physics would be our Energy Screencast task, in which students choose a YouTube video and thoroughly describe all the energy exchanges taking place in the video. Each Level 3 task is accompanied by a rubric that indicates exactly the things we are looking for. For the Energy Screencast example, we would include:

  • make reasonable estimates of relevant heights and distances, in meters
  • define the system in which energy flow and transfer is to be modeled
  • model energy distribution within the system using bar graphs

…among others.

Step 6: Teacher reviews the Level 3 task entry and uses a rubric to indicate mastery of each LT (or not). For instance, let’s say a student turns in a screencast in which they successfully estimate the relevant heights and define the system, but do not include bar graphs to model the energy distribution. In this case, the student earns Level 3 status on the first two LTs, but stays at Level 2 on the bar graphs one. (Note: This could even have been part of this student’s plan. A unit with at least 3/4 LTs at Level 3 will still calculate as an A for the unit and students will know this.)

Let’s see how this looks! 🙂 My colleague has been working on some upgrades to our system (same name SocraticBrain.com), but it’s not 100% ready. For now, here is a partial screenshot:

screen capture2

Notes: When you click on “Practice”, it shows whatever the teacher puts in as practice for that LT. So, in the case where a multiple choice item is not appropriate, the teacher could include a link to something else, or just a few reflection questions. When you click on “Level up” it gives you the next level task (whether it’s the Level 2 quiz or the Level 3 performance task). If the button says “Not Ready”, then when you click it, it tells you what you’ll need to do to get ready.

Some things I love about this system: 

  1. Students must demonstrate some level of understanding before “leveling up”. I’ve struggled with how to help students who fall into the habit of “I’ll just take the quiz over and over until I figure out the pattern”. With this system, the teacher is in control of access to the quiz, so if they want a try at it they have to show what they’ve done to earn it.
  2. I LOVE how the Level 3 task becomes the focus of the unit. One big failure of mine from last year was not providing summative tasks that combined LTs. In this system, the only way for a student to get an A for the unit is to complete a task that does exactly that (combines multiple LTs).
  3. Last year, we had a big problem with students turning in Energy Screencasts that showed a clear lack of basic skills and understanding. It was way too time consuming to provide appropriate feedback on those. The hope is that by requiring Level 2 status on ALL LTs before attempting the Level 3 task, we will avoid this problem. Then, we’ll be able to really push students further with our feedback, instead of pointing out simple mistakes and omissions.

What do you think? Any advice or feedback is appreciated!

5 thoughts on “Update on the new #SBL scheme

  1. Hi Matt! Just finished listening to you on Global Math Department. Liking your 3 point system, especially your synthesis task for Level 3. You say in your blog you do a brief interview for Level 1. How do you time manage that? What are other students doing? Thanks!

    • It is tough to fit in time for it, and I only started doing it near the end of last year so I imagine I will work up strategies throughout this year. I think that the key is having activities for everyone to work on while you do it, so some days you may not be able to. For instance, on a day in Physics when we do a lab activity, and maybe a whiteboard discussion about it, I would definitely not have enough time. But since our quizzes (level 2) are student paced, I give time to work on them most days (about 20-30 of 100 minutes). I usually use this “quiz” time for checking Level 1 stuff.

      • OK, so I’d like to clarify your classroom management of SBG since that is the piece I’m trying to wrap my head around. For level 1 do students practice at their own pace then take a level 2 quiz when they are ready? Basically, self paced? I’m curious because my team last year did a self paced model that we kept evolving and I was never completely happy with it. (Didn’t do SBG though.)


        BTW, I’m teaching 7th grade math this year. Do you know of anyone else at that grade level in math doing SBG? I’ve been talking to a few people on Twitter who led me to you via Global Math Department

  2. Most of the Level 1 stuff is self paced, but we give them guidelines, such as “You should be done with the practice for ____ by Friday” (no penalty for not having it done, but makes clear who we need to push). And the Level 2 quizzes are basically the same way. We want them to take the quiz when they are ready, but found that some would procrastinate every time if we let them. So this year, the plan is to set a date for the “end” of a unit. So, they take quizzes at their own pace, but on that date, a grade goes in the gradebook no matter what. They’ll know that they can still change the grade if they go back and put in the work and retake the quizzes, but we’re hoping that having those deadlines helps.

    I’m not sure if they do SBG, but I bet @JustinAion or @jreulbach could help. Have you checked out #msmathchat? That would be a good place to find people too.

    • wow Geninne! tu nuevo proyecto es espectacular, siempre has sido fuente de inspiración para mi, y este journal se ve fantástico, amo todo lo que tenga que ver con Planner, Diarios, etc. Fe!aiidcdes!!lUna admiradora de Panamá =)

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