Benefits of standards-based learning
February 7, 2022
According to Donovan, the goal for standards-based learning is to give students more effective and precise feedback.
Dylan Linton (’23), who has been experiencing the school’s ongoing transition to standards-based learning since his arrival in Grade 9, said it adds layers to the way in which students are assessed.
“Standards-based learning is definitely useful for teachers to kind of, especially in a humanities class, judge a students’ academic ability well,” he said. “Instead of just a single grade that kind of looks at everything at once, you can see different sections of a student’s performance, which can help to point out weaknesses or strengths for them.”
Similarly, Social Studies Teacher and Department Head Chris Wolf said standards-based assessment is more useful than letter-based assessment because students can be guided toward focusing on how to improve instead of fixating on their overall performance.
“Back in the day, you would get a letter grade at the top of your paper,” he said. “So you wrote a six-page paper, and there’s all these comments all over it, and then you get this letter. But you don’t really know ‘Where do I go to make this better?’ based on an overall letter.”
In addition, Wolf said he appreciates that standards-based assessment is built on the understanding that student progress is gradual.
“Knowledge and skills, they aren’t binary, it’s not like a light switch,” he said. “You don’t turn it on and off.”
Likewise, Jaworski said a benefit of standards-based assessment – unlike bell curve grading, which is when grades are sorted in comparison to the best grade in the class – is that it accommodates for diversity in students’ needs and experiences.
“What I love about standards-based assessment is you are not compared to each other,” she said. “You are only on your own learning journey, andthat learning journey is unique to you. Even though we’re all going to try to get to that same place, how each of us get there is different.”
With regard to long-term benefits, Wolf said the use of standards encourages students to think critically, a skill useful beyond just school.
Knowledge and skills, they aren’t binary, it’s not like a light switch. You don’t turn it on and off.”
— Social Studies Teacher Chris Wolf
“The system itself kind of helps students develop that sense of judgment about how well they’re doing,” he said. “It’s not like that skill goes away, where they have that judgment, that ability to say, ‘I’m really doing okay on this but not okay on that.’”
Overall, Wolf said standards-based learning gives students more autonomy over their education and increases in effectiveness as they become more familiar with it.
“Standards-based is a great opportunity for students to take more control and to really be in control of their own education,” Wolf said. “I think the more widespread it becomes, the more students will appreciate it and understand it and the better the education will be that they get.”