Group Quiz Results!


So, here’s what went down…

My students took this quiz individually, for a grade:

Then they took it as a small group, not for a grade:

These pictures are fairly indicative of the engagement level as the students discussed the quiz and haggled over the correct answers. The observed level of engagement alone tells me that this is a learning experience worth repeating.


  • Class mean for individual quiz = 2.7 (on 4 point #SBAR rubric scale; approximately letter grade = B)
  • Class mean for group quiz (same quiz, same kids, same class period immediately after taking individual quiz) = 3.33 (approximately = A-)


Much of the increased mean score is due to the fact that no group scored below a 2.5, while 5 individual students did. However, there were no individuals that scored a 4 individually, while 2 groups did so. Only 2 of 6 groups improved above the highest score in their group. One actually declined, although that was because the high scorer left during the group portion of the quiz.


Based on the high engagement level that I observed during the group quiz and the level of discourse I heard in nearly all groups, this was a worthwhile learning experience. I think I will make the group quiz a regular practice in my classes going forward.

Next steps:

I need to add an individual reflection step at the end of the group quiz. This should be brief but impactful. Something like this:

  1. What mistakes or misconceptions did you have on your individual quiz that were changed by the group quiz?
  2. What questions do you still need help with after the group quiz?
  3. How did the group quiz help you learn more about this standard?
  4. What are your next steps? (study, re-assess, get help, etc.)

I think this would really help to link the group quiz to the re-learning & re-assessment cycle.

Another next step would be to assign specific roles for the students to play during the group quiz (leader, recorder, questioner, etc.) and give them some discussion prompts, especially in my non-honors classes.

Unanswered Questions:

How did the group quiz impact re-assessment scores? Did the group quiz help students improve their understanding of the content? Is this better than me just going over the correct answers?

Group quiz question follow-up

Here is where edu-blogging +Twitter really shines, folks. To bring you all up to speed, here is a brief summary of events:

1. I read a post by Joss Ives about 2-stage quizzes (stage 1= solo, stage 2=group)

2. I said, “cool idea, how can I make that work with standards-based grading?” and made a blog post about my quandary

4. I sent it to a few Twitter users whom I know are #SBG veterans

5. I received a great comment from Matt Townsley that helped me to see the problem more clearly

So, to tackle Matt’s questions one by one, here goes:

Matt: What instructional or classroom management concern are you trying to address by introducing this idea into your class?

I see the idea of immediately following an individual quiz with a group quiz as a chance for students to, (1) get immediate feedback from their peers about the quiz and where their knowledge level is, and (2) improve their understanding of the content/concept at a time when they should be most receptive to correcting misconceptions and filling knowledge gaps.

The main problem I think the group quiz may address is the problem of students generally sucking at diagnosing their knowledge gaps and taking intentional steps to repair those gaps. I’m hoping the group quiz will help those who bombed the quiz be more successful upon re-assessment.

Matt: Another idea – could you add a third stage? After students receive feedback (no letter grade…or a fictitious grade based on the75% + 25% formula) from the second stage, could you add a third stage where students completed it only individually?

The decision: What I ended up doing falls somewhere in between. We did a small-group whiteboard session yesterday where I circulated to ask questions and provide feedback. This served as a formative assessment for me and as a culminating learning experience for them. Today, they took the quiz individually for a grade. After all of the individual quizzes were complete, I had them complete the same quiz in small groups NOT for a grade.

In my next post, I’ll share the results and my reflection on the process!

Working group assessments in with #SBG

Yesterday, I read a few posts from physics professor Joss Ives at his blog, Science Learnification. One of the posts that really got me thinking was about weekly two-stage quizzes in his physics classes.

A two-stage group exam is form of assessment where students learn as part of the assessment. The idea is that the students write an exam individually, hand in their individual exams, and then re-write the same or similar exam in groups, where learning, volume and even fun are all had.

I really like the idea of having students take a quiz individually, then take it again immediately afterward in a group. I’m going to give this a try next time a give a quiz. If nothing else, instant feedback mixed with collaborative problem solving is a powerful combination.

What I’m trying to wrap my brain around right now is how to work this in with standards-based grading.

Since I don’t give points, I can’t do the 75% individual score + 25% group score = quiz grade split that Joss uses. If I could sit with all groups at once, I could observe and listen for individual involvement in the discussion & problem solving.

It may be that we could just do the group quiz portion as a learning experience and leave it at that. Since my students are always allowed to re-assess, there is value in learning after the assessment.

What I think would be lacking for me is the level of engagement that Joss reports in the group problem solving portion of the quiz. His kids are engaged in no small part because everyone’s grade is on the line. I’m not sure where the immediate motivation would be for many of my students.

Any ideas?

Standards-based grading 1st Trimester post-game

I have just completed my first trimester of using standards-based grading (#SBG) after taking a 2 year break from it. Now it’s time to step to the podium for the post-game press conference.

Opening Statement:

This time around, it has gone much better. No major student complaints, no parent “sit-downs” where they are mentally fitting me for concrete galoshes, and no suggestions from administrators or school board members that all teachers adopt #SBG or none do it. Now I will take your questions.

“Coach! Can you give us three things you liked about this trimester?”


#1 – Keep it simple, stupid

One of my biggest frustrations with #SBG my first time trying it was the complexity of the grade book. Score entry and task/ assessment tracking was awkward. The Power Law made grades mysterious. Averaging assessments to reach a standard score was even worse (and counter to the ethos of #SBG). District mandated grading software made all of this even worse. This time around, I have better software and I went with my adaptation of Frank Noschese’s K.I.S. SBG. This has worked much better.

#2 – The “eye test”

Students’ final grades were much in line with my informal assessment of their skills, knowledge and effort. I’ve always felt that a good teacher could give his students a very accurate grade without any scoring, points, standards, etc. We do all of that for the consumption of students, parents, administrators, etc. so that there is perceived fairness and objectivity to the grades. Of course, grades are still subjective no matter how you arrive at them.

#3 – Winning hearts and minds

Quite a few students have caught on to the system and have begun using the language of “meeting standard” and “reassessment.” I wish I could say that they all get it and they all love it but that would be a lie. They’re coming around, though, just not nearly as fast as I’d like (isn’t that always the case?). The real success has been the number of colleagues that have expressed interest in coming over to the #SBG Rebel Alliance (I can’t picture #SBG as the Dark Side). One has even decided to take the #SBG plunge for 2nd trimester!

“Thanks coach. Now can you give us 3 dislikes about your 1st trimester’s grading efforts?”

3 Dislikes:

#1 – How many points is this worth?

Yes, I still get this question and, yes, I still hate it. There are still too many students who really don’t get #SBG or how their grade is calculated. I need to get better at communicating the system more clearly, quickly and effectively. Most likely, I need to simplify what I tell them and dole it out in smaller bites on a need-to-know basis. Luckily, I get another chance at this this trimester!

#2 – “Mister, we take too many quizzes!”

The kids who have said this to me are right. I have been quiz-happy this trimester. For someone who used quizzes sparingly in the first 7 years of teaching, I’ve become too dependent on quizzes as my primary type of formal assessment. One of my main goals for 2nd trimester is to do more informal assessments (observations, conversations, discussions, whiteboarding, writing prompts, etc.) and to gather records of said assessments to use for grading purposes. I have decided that quizzes do certainly have a time and place in my classroom, though.

#3 – Grain size

This dislike is in reference to the standards I used for grading purposes 1st trimester. I struggled through much of the trimester to effectively triangulate the ideal “grain size” for my graded standards. In other words, some standards (e.g., Plate Tectonics) were too broad and actually included several different key parts (Causes of Plate Tectonics, Effects of Plate Tectonics, Plate Boundaries, Layers of the Earth). Other standards became too narrow (Microscope Skills) and could only be assessed very directly.

“Coach – How would you assess yourself for the 1st trimester?”

Overall, I’m giving myself a solid 2.5 (out of 4) for 1st trimester’s #SBG efforts. I have demonstrated basic understanding of #SBG and have applied the skill with partial effectiveness.

“What are your goals for next trimester?”

I hope to leap to a 3.5 or 4 next trimester by improving my communication to students, diversifying my assessments and honing my standard “size.”

“Okay, coach, that sounds like it would earn you a solid 3 for ‘meeting standard.’ Just how do you plan to exceed the standard?”

I hope to successfully mentor at least one colleague into the #SBG team. Beyond that, I plan to make more of an effort to spread the word to my larger base of colleagues outside of the science department. I work on a staff of over 100, so there are many opportunities to find willing converts!

I borrowed this image from this post. Thanks!

Standards-based grading welcomes me back with open arms!

A few years ago, I dove into the world of standards-based grading (SBG). While it had its merits, I decided to dump SBG for what I called UNgrading. I happily rolled with UNgrading for two years and mostly loved it. My chief struggle was finding time to conference with all students about their grades.

This year, I’m teaching at a new school with much less flexibility. My new school is much more locked in to curriculum and pacing guides, common assessments, etc. I have larger classes and a larger student load overall.

After a few weeks of existential vertigo, I needed to break the status quo. Full-fledged project-based learning with UNgrading wasn’t an option for me or for my new colleagues, so I decided SBG would champion my subversion campaign.

I have mostly avoided my previous gradebook frustrations with a version of the Keep It Simple Standards-Based Grading recommended by Frank Noschese. I have also read everything on the blogs of Shawn Cornally and Jason Buell and they have been crazy helpful. Yay blogosphere!

The cool thing is that several of my colleagues have expressed interest in jumping on board the SBG Express! My new administrators have been incredibly supportive of SBG as well.

I’m not happy that my primary form of assessment so far has been lab reports and quizzes. I definitely need help in this area.

I still have a lot of room for improving how well I communicate my grading method to my students (and parents). The kids are only just now starting to get it, 12 weeks into the school year.

In spite of these struggles, I feel like I’m on the right track!