Performance standards describe the expectations you have of students' work for different grade levels. Standards help you differentiate criteria in ways that are qualitatively and quantitatively distinct and they help build student ownership because students understand what they have to do. Standards are developed across HD-PS for assessments with a numerical value, and for both satisfactory and unsatisfactory levels for assessments with no value. Performance descriptors are written for each criteria.
What you need to do
Write standards descriptors for each criterion, for each passing grade
- It's best to start with one level, for example a such as a Pass level; develop a minimum standard you expect students to demonstrate their competence in this assessment.
- Write a Pass descriptor for each criterion that describes evidence of achievement of the subject Learning Outcome associated with that assessment.
- Once you've done this for a pass level, then look at another level, such as a higher level (HD) response and develop the standard for this level.
- Identify the features that you expect students to demonstrate. Such as:
- Levels of understanding of the concept you are assessing; for example an HD student may be able to apply the concept in a more sophisticated way (e.g. explaining the results of a lab report to a sophisticated yet non-scientific audience)
- Can the student explain or justify what they have done?
- Ensure there is consistency of language and content with your higher level descriptors and the Pass.
- Then complete the remaining levels.
- Make sure that each descriptor is measurable and that consistent marking can occur across markers.
Taxonomies are useful in articulating types or levels of performance, however they are not a generic substitute for the process, and much thought needs to go into differentiating meaningful standards. Some Taxonomy resources that may help include:
Another useful resource from the Association of American Colleges and Universities can also help to guide development of language in rubrics. See Value Rubric.
Review your standards descriptors and ask:
- Is there alignment of language and expectations between the criterion and the standards? e.g. if the criterion asks for "analysis", yet the pass descriptor uses the word "describe" this would create confusion for students (and markers) about what you really expect the student to do. The PASS descriptor must meet the related subject learning outcome.
- Are the distinctions between standards clear, using plain English, and easily understood by students?
- Is there consistency of language and expectations across the descriptors and within each descriptor?
- Try to avoid value descriptions, such as 'adequate' or 'satisfactory' unless they are supported by descriptions or examples of what you are looking for because my satisfactory may be different to yours, so you need to be clear about what you expect. e.g., if you're asking students to use "a satisfactory range of sources", can you quantify this? Or perhaps you're more concerned with the quality of the material, i.e. "at least 3 sources need to be recent journal articles".
Think carefully about exactly what you want to see from your students and communicate this via the criteria and standards.