ChatGPT & Standards-Based Grading

I decided to see what advice ChatGPT could produce if I put in the prompt “Write a blog post about tips for standards-based grading in social studies.” I am copying below what the AI provided to me. It’s all fairly standard tips, the type you would see as an introduction to the topic in a general methods textbook. The second part of this post is simply my thoughts on what the AI produced.

One thought I will add at the start, as I think it is most relevant, is that standards-based teaching and grading makes it harder (not impossible) for students to use tools like ChatGPT for cheating. This is especially true when those systems teach and assess historical thinking skills. By teaching and assessing skills, it forces students to consider more than just content and information. Any type of written response, whether short-answer or essay, becomes focused around specific documents, a specific stimulus, or a specific skill. Also, teachers have more formative evidence to use towards summative scores and can create more unique projects and assessments that do not lend themselves to traditional essay-like plagiarism. Whether these assessments and projects are done in class or at home, standards-based systems create a useful roadblock to cheating while generally improving instruction and assessment.

ChatGPT’s Response

As a social studies teacher, grading can be a difficult task. Social studies is a complex subject that requires the use of critical thinking and analysis, which means that traditional grading methods may not be suitable. One alternative method that has gained popularity in recent years is standards-based grading. This approach provides a more accurate representation of a student’s understanding of the material and helps to identify areas where they may need additional support. Here are some tips for implementing standards-based grading in social studies.

  1. Understand the Standards The first step in implementing standards-based grading is to understand the standards. Review the learning objectives for your course and identify the essential skills and concepts that students need to master. This will help you to determine what assessments you will use to measure student understanding and how you will grade those assessments.
  2. Develop Clear Criteria Clear criteria are essential for effective standards-based grading. Students need to know exactly what is expected of them and what they need to do to achieve a particular grade. Develop rubrics that outline the specific criteria for each learning objective, and share these with students at the beginning of the course.
  3. Use Multiple Forms of Assessment One of the benefits of standards-based grading is that it allows for a variety of assessments. Instead of relying solely on tests and quizzes, consider using projects, essays, debates, and other forms of assessment that allow students to demonstrate their understanding of the material in different ways. This also allows for students who struggle with traditional tests to demonstrate their understanding in a different way.
  4. Provide Specific Feedback Feedback is crucial for standards-based grading. Rather than just assigning a grade, provide specific feedback that identifies areas where the student is excelling and where they need to improve. This helps students to understand where they stand in relation to the learning objectives and what they need to do to improve.
  5. Be Consistent Consistency is critical for effective standards-based grading. Use the same rubrics and criteria for each assessment, and apply them consistently across all students. This ensures that the grading process is fair and transparent and that students understand how they are being evaluated.
  6. Communicate with Parents Finally, communication with parents is essential for standards-based grading. Parents may be unfamiliar with this approach to grading, so it’s important to explain the process and how it works. Share assessment results and feedback regularly, and be available to answer any questions or concerns that parents may have.

In conclusion, implementing standards-based grading in social studies requires careful planning and preparation. By understanding the standards, developing clear criteria, using multiple forms of assessment, providing specific feedback, being consistent, and communicating with parents, you can create a fair and effective grading system that accurately reflects student understanding of the material.

OpenAI. ChatGPT. Accessed 22 Feb. 2023

My Thoughts

A teacher needs to understand their standards inside and out and be able to help unpack them for students. Some of the best PD I have taken part in were group discussions around standards; this includes what they mean and how we should apply them across courses, etc. Historical Thinking standards often have many ways that they can applied, and broad words like “point-of-view” or “contextualization” can be initially deceiving. Teachers should consider what task the skills are being applied to, what measurement topic, or “big tent” standard, a skill might be part of, and how processes embedded within a skill connect within the course of a year and over a multi-year curriculum.

These discussions may lead to different answers for different teachers, departments, or courses. The success of a standards-based system will depend on how genuinely teachers engage with these questions and how they are able to explain the answers to their students. Some questions my former department handled as part of the NCHS standards were:

  1. Is contextualizing historical events and developments the same as contextualizing a primary source? Should these skills be taught and assessed as part of the same standard?
  2. Are the terms point-of-view and perspective going to be used as synonyms? How could they be applied differently to different tasks or skills? How should students understand the subtle differences of these concepts between english and social studies courses?
  3. What research processes should be taught and assessed versus just taught?
  4. What foundational skills or processes are part of everything we do, for example historical significance?
  5. How should skills be aligned within a unit of study and within an entire course?

Students deserve clear criteria, whether this is a proficiency scale, single-point rubric, or other tool for unpacking scoring expectations. I believe proficiency scales are most useful for teachers in order to help them scaffold instruction and assessment. On the student side, I tend to prefer single-point rubrics, or student-friendly rubrics that are aligned to the proficiency scale, but are presented in a simplified format.

Feedback is obviously one of the most important things teachers can provide, even though it can become one of the most time consuming. Some of the best growth I have seen in my own practice because of standards-based grading has been around feedback. Clear standards and expectations around skills allowed me to hone my feedback and better explain scores to students. No more telling students to “use more detail” or that they “did not meet length requirements.” Now I could engage in feedback around why the evidence the student selected was not relevant, or how they can increase complexity by adding a causation framework for analysis to their argument. It is embarrassing to think that it took me five years into my teaching career to realize I needed to address scaffolding of skills in my feedback instead of just making content fun.

Likewise, the use of proficiency scales also ties a numeric score to a particular set of skills or processes that allow students to reflect on their work before coming to the teacher for feedback. There will always be a role for individual qualitative feedback, but consistency in scoring expectations paired with a clear rubric that reflects those expectations answers a lot of student questions. Seeing feedback mentioned in ChatGPT has inspired me to do a future post on feedback within AP World and the Standards-Based Grading context.

Parents are always one of the more important pieces of the education puzzle. It is important that parents both understand the standards-based system and how it is being implemented. The more parents see that these structures and policies are for supporting students and helping them achieve greater success, the more they will get behind the teacher. Taking the time to explain these things to parents is crucial. This is something which should not fall entirely on the shoulders of an individual teacher, but is the responsibility of school administrators and leaders first.

This short exercise has been a mildly useful example in how ChatGPT can be used to brainstorm or reflect as it provides a broad starting point. I have begun using it in this way to help students develop research plans and reflect on their claims and counterclaims. If done responsibly, I think this will be another useful tool more enriching the curriculum. After all, banning it or avoiding it seems nearly impossible.

Other Popular Posts on Standards-Based Grading

Moving Towards Standards-Based Grading

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