Google Drive Lab Report Workflow

This year I've rolled out using Google Drive for all Physics lab reports. Several people have asked me what this looks like, so I thought I'd share. Feel free to suggest a better/easier methodology- this is something that's come together based on how I know how to use Google Drive, and I certainly don't know all the ways to use Google Drive.

A big debt is owed to Katrina Kennett, whose posts and EdCamp Boston sessions on using Google Drive for paperless grading inspired my use, and for Frank Noschese, whose lab rubric I borrowed from heavily.

The setup

1- Creating shared folders. As soon as I get a finalized class list and my students' email addresses, I set up shared assignment folders in Google Drive for each student in my Physics class. This is a folder that is only shared between the individual student and myself, so anything I put into the folder they can see and vice versa.

Here's what it looks like for me in Google Drive:

Shared Assignment Folders in Google Drive

It can be a tedious process to individually create individual folders for each student. Fortunately, you don't have to- there's a Google Script called gClassFolders, that will automatically create folders for all of your students from a spreadsheet with your students' information. I won't go into detail here about how to setup gClassFolders, as the official site does an excellent job walking you through the process.

2- Share the rubric. I created the lab report rubric in a Google Spreadsheet, then I make a copy of the rubric for each student, and share with them, and place the rubric in their individual folders. Again, this could be a tedious process. Fortunately it isn't, thanks to Doctopus. Doctopus will make copies of the rubric for each student, share it with that student, and put it into their GDrive assignment folder. Super easy.

To use Doctopus, you'll just need a spreadsheet with students' names and email addresses (which you probably already have from using gClassFolders in step 1), and then it'll walk you through your sharing and naming options. Again, I'll forgo the lengthy explanation of using Doctopus, because the official site has you covered.

At this point, when each student signs into GDrive, they'll see their shared folder, with a spreadsheet titled, "Josh- Lab Report Rubrics," for example.

A student's view of the assignment folder

Now we're ready for some student lab reports.

Google Drive in Action

3- Students write lab reports. In lab, students record their data in lab notebooks, graph their data using LinReg, and discuss their results in a post-lab Whiteboard Meeting.  For their formal lab report, they create a Google Doc and type up their lab report. For graphs, they take screenshots of the graphs, and add them to the lab report as an image.

When they have finished the lab report, they drop it into their Physics Assignment folders, where I can then see it and have permissions to edit the lab report.

4- Scoring. Since I am able to edit their lab reports, I leave comments directly on their lab report, as shown below.

Comments on a Google Doc lab report.

A nice feature of Google Docs is that students receive notifications when I leave a comment, so they know right away when I've commented on their lab report.

At the same time I'm commenting on a student's lab report , I'm filling out the Lab Report Rubric & Checklist for their lab report. An important note: For each student, I'm filling out the lab checklist on my copy of the lab report rubric, and not the copy that I've already individually shared with students. This may seem odd, but in the end it means that students will have one spreadsheet that contains the rubrics for every lab that they've done. Below I'll explain how to make that happen.

5- Copying the rubric to students. After I've finished filling out the lab report rubric and checklist for a student's lab report, I select the "Copy to..." option on the tab of the spreadsheet:

The "Copy to..." location

A window then pops up asking me what Google Spreadsheet I'd like to copy it to. Since I've already created a lab report rubric spreadsheet for every student (in step 2), I just search for the student's first name, and select their lab report rubric spreadsheet:

Searching for student lab report spreadsheets

Once selected, the sheet is copied to that student's spreadsheet, where they can see it. On a student's spreadsheet, it'll show up as "Copy of [tab name]," as shown below:

Copied tab- Student view

Voila! Each student has one document that will contain every lab report rubric we do all year. This makes it easier for students to look back at previous lab reports and see where they made mistakes or needed more depth. It will hopefully also easily document their their growth over time.

Once I've copied a lab report rubric to the student's spreadsheet, I revert my copy of the rubric back to its original state so it's ready for me to start on the next lab report.

6- Rewrites. When a student turns in a less-than-stellar lab report, they're required to do a rewrite. A nice (and new) feature of Google Drive is the Activity Pane, which shows all the changes that are being made to documents in a specific Google Drive folder. As students work on their rewrites, I can check the activity pane for the folder with the students' shared folders and quickly see who has been updating their documents (and who hasn't).

Activity view in GDrive

Wrap Up

This is the first year I've used such a system, and it's definitely a work in progress. So far I've been quite happy with how the process has worked, and being able to create one document that contains the rubric for every lab report we do all year is a major plus.

Again, if you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for improvement, let me know. I'd definitely be open for suggestions that make the process even more streamlined.

3 Quick- Subjectives, grading stinks, and modeling with Kelly O'Shea

Fairly often I find things online that I think are either terribly interesting, awesome, or thought-provoking, but don't have either the time or the will or write anything in depth about how or why they're interesting, awesome, or thought-provoking. I'd still like to share these items, so I've decided to make the 3 Quick a semi-irregular feature1 here at Re:Thinking. Offered with little to no editorialization. Feel free to kick off a conversation in the comments.

Subjects or Subjectives (Michael Wesch)


Dr. Wesch says:

As an alternative to the idea that we teach “subjects,” I’ve been playing with the idea that what we really teach are “subjectivities”: ways of approaching, understanding, and interacting with the world. Subjectivities cannot be “taught” – only practiced. They involve an introspective intellectual throw-down in the minds of students.

I agree. I think this is something discussed fairly often in the scientific spectrum (though through different terminology). For me it boils down to the statement, "I'm not concerned if my students can't remember specific scientific content if they have learned to think scientifically."



The Case Against Grades (Alfie Kohn)


Alfie Kohn has never been a supporter of giving out grades, and this article goes into detail on the three big effects of grading:

  • Grades tend to diminish students’ interest in whatever they’re learning.
  • Grades create a preference for the easiest possible task.
  • Grades tend to reduce the quality of students’ thinking.

Even better, he gives some examples of assessment done right. My only beef with the article is the seeming lack of acknowledgement that many (probably most) teachers are working in situations where they would simply not be able to get rid of grades due to the requirements of their schools and districts.



Model Building (Kelly O'Shea)


If you're interested in using the well-researched and effective Modeling Instruction with physics, let me recommend Kelly O'Shea's series explaining how her classes build the models. It gives an excellent peek inside a classroom using modeling to those (like myself) who are interested in implementing it in the near future. As of this posting, she's written up explanations for the Balanced Force Particle Model and Constant Acceleration Particle Model, but it looks like she'll have six in total when she's done.

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  1. "Semi-irregular" as in however long it takes me to come across 3 items to share and have the time to write up a post. (back)

Citations & tracked classes: SBG questions

We're now 8 days into the new school year & standards-based grading has officially been introduced and implemented (though we don't yet have much in the way of assessments in the book). I really like how the use of SBG has required me to rethink how I present a topic and how we spend our time in class1.

However, a couple issues have popped up where I could use a little guidance from some SBG-brethren (or sistren):

Problem 1: Citations & plagiarism

In the past, if students failed to cite their sources or plagiarized, I wouldn't accept their project/assignment/what-have you. I would give them an adequate amount of time to make the necessary changes and re-submit it without penalty, but if they didn't fix it up they wouldn't get credit.

As I was thinking through the SBG system, I realized that if I have a standard for properly citing sources and not plagiarizing information I could be opening a loop-hole. I did a twitter shout out on the issue, and the SBG-Jedi @mctownsley, responded to my question with a question:

Is citing sources an important issue you want all of your students to demonstrate?

Well, yes. I believe it's a very important skill to cite your sources- both for academic integrity and to point any readers toward your sources so they can read them and see if they agree with your interpretation of them. However, imagine a student really hates citations (let's face it, they are a pain) and decides to the play the system. They realize that as long as they use citations properly for the last assessment that requires them, they really don't need to do citations for any other previous assessments. This doesn't seem ideal.

My solution as of now: I have a standard for citations. In addition, if a student turns in a project or activity that is missing citations when it should have them or is plagiarized, then I'll give it back, tell them to fix it up, and not change any grades on any standards (except for the citation standard). While this technically leaves a loop-hole intact, I believe it'll prevent too much monkeying around.

Problem 2: Tracked classes

I teach 9th grade Integrated Science all day, every day. However, there are three(!) levels of Integrated Science: Honors, regular, and Foundations. Let's ignore issues with tracking students since it's an issue beyond my control at the moment2.

Should all Integrated Science classes share the same standards? Should achieving mastery be defined the same for all classes? My school weights honors classes more heavily (to prevent students taking low-level classes from becoming valedictorian, presumably), which seems to suggest there's a belief that the class requires less effort3.

My solution as of now: (1)The standards for all levels of Integrated Science are the same, but may be adjusted as I see necessary. If one level is showing a lack of knowledge I feel is important, I'll feel free to add a standard in for just that level (and vice-versa for removal of standards). I'm trying to be flexible and provide the best learning opportunities for all students. (2) I'm really not sure about this one. Right now I'm going to expect students in all levels to demonstrate similar levels of knowledge or skill to achieve mastery. Since I'm flexible on how much time I spend on standards in different classes, I'm willing to spend extra time if needed to get all students to mastery level.

Whatchoo think?

I know there are many people out there who have already dealt with similar issues. I'd love to hear your own solutions to these problems as well as insights into my "solutions as of now."

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  1. I really like the way it allows me to focus in on areas of student weaknesses and differentiate instruction with super-laser-guided-satellite-gps precision.     (back)
  2. For the record, I find it's 95% a bad thing- including some pretty serious (but never mentioned aloud) issues with minorities being over-represented in Foundations and under-represented in Honors. There's an unspoken message being given to our minority population...     (back)
  3. Not an assertion I agree with, but thems the facts.     (back)

SBG Express: Details

The basic idea of standards-based grading is simple: Grade students on their understanding of specific learning goals. It's the details of that implementation that are devilish. In honor of the "publish, then filter" idea, writing this post is my way of working through (and hopefully solidifying) those details.

What standards?

I've started making a list of standards. I keep oscillating between thinking, "These standards are way too specific!" to "These standards are way too broad!" I'm taking that as a sign that they're about where I want them. This is a list in progress. As of this typing the standards cover the first several mini-units of 9th grade Integrated Science. I'm open to any insights, questions, or comments you have concerning the standards. If you missed the subtle hyperlink earlier, CLICK HERE TO VIEW STANDARDS!

Grading

When the rubber hits the road, I need a specific way to calculate a student's letter grade at any point in time. Figuring this part out is spending more mental energy than anything else. An incorrect implementation might make SBG no better than old-fashioned grades by cumulative points- and in face could be worse. I'd like to avoid that.

  1. Each standard is worth 10 points.
    • Points translate directly to % and grades, so 9.5 = 95% = A
  2. The overall grade is calculated by averaging student scores on all the standards that have been assessed.
    • Some SBG'ers don't like the averaging method since some poorly understood standards might be covered up by a few well understood standards. Conjunctive scoring would get around this (Jason Buell gives a nice overview of conjunctive scoring here), but I worry that conjunctive scoring is a bit too "out there" for administrators, teachers, or students to get behind, and furthermore I'm not sure PowerSchool (our student information system) can handle it. I've put conjunctive scoring on the "possible future enhancements" list.
  3. Students may re-assess on any standard on any day.
    • Limits:
      • 1 standard per day, per student (the Cornally Corollary)
      • Students must know what standard they want to re-assess
      • Students can get help from me or re-assess, but not both on the same day (the Nowak Limit)
  4. Mid-terms and finals are summative
    • Meaning these grades can't change with reassessment. Total value of both combined is 20% of the overall course.
  5. I'll be using the SBGradebook along with PowerSchool to record & report student progress.
    • I'm not going to lie, I'm a little worried about how much time it'll take to enter grades in twice. However, the SBGradebook looks like such an exercise in graphy-awesomeness I couldn't not use it. Plus, it should help students track their own progress more effectively.

I'm pretty sure if you've written about SBG in the past 12 months you'll see something of your system here. Hopefully you view it as flattery and not me biting your awesome ideas.

I'm pretty sure writing this post helped me more than it will help any reader. I needed to hash out several competing ideas I had floating around my head. As always, if you see something glaringly obvious that will sink this SBG ship, let me know.

SBG Express: I've got a ticket to ride

I mentioned it in my last post, and I'm officially announcing it here. My ticket is punched and I'm on board the SBG Express1 for the 2010-2011 school year!

I've spent the last few weeks reading and rereading several teachers' explanations and reflections on standards-based grading (including, but not limited to Shawn Cornally, Jason Buell, Frank Noschese, Matt Townsley, and several others who will be mad at me for not giving them a shout out). The more I read, the more I knew that standards-based grading was something that in some sort of sideways, subconscious way I've been working towards implementing the last several years even though I didn't even know what "SBG" stood for until May of this year.

Here's my basic understanding of SBG to date:

  • Assessment and grades should accurately reflect student learning (not just student homework-turning-in abilities)
  • Instead of using cumulative-points-earned as the basis for student grades, use progress towards a set of "standards (or "learning goals", or "knowledge criteria," or "whatever you'd like to call them")."
    • These standards describe specific areas of knowledge or expertise that students should gain. For example, "I can explain the law of gravity and understand what factors affect the strength of gravitational force."
  • Grades in your gradebook should help students realize where their understanding is great and where it's lacking.
    • Knowing they flunked "Quiz: Chapter 7" isn't helpful. Knowing they got 6 out of 10 on "I can explain why stars transition from one stage to another as they progress through their life cycle" gives the student valuable information that allows them to focus their remediation.
  • A grade on a standard is not set in stone (until exam time). Students can re-assess on any standard at any point in the school year. Grades can go down if the student shows a lack of understanding later in the course.
    • This should allow a students' grade to more accurately reflect their actual learning rather than be punished for not learning something before a big test when they knew it by the end of the course. Likewise, the student who crams successfully for the big test then forgets it all should have a grade that better reflects actual understanding.

I know! Sweet, right?

Fortunately, I've been blessed with a personality that's totally fine jumping into a project without having worked out all the details ahead of time. Unfortunately, I'm going to have to explain this whole SBG thing to quite a few students, parents, teachers, et cetera, in just a few days.

Tomorrow I'll share what I've got so far in the "details" folder.

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  1. copyright, 2010, Shawn Cornally (back)

When the hugeness hits me

I'm a pretty laid back dude. I don't get too worked up about major life changes. It's not that I don't appreciate the hugeness of the changes, it's just that I'm okay with change, and look forward to the new opportunities that result. I'm currently in the middle of some pretty huge life changes (i.e. moving from Michigan to Connecticut). However, I haven't had much time to reflect on their hugeness due to my crazy grad classes and end of the year school craziness among other things.

Today I received my first batch of exam projects from my 1st hour, and set right to grading them during my 2nd hour prep period. The first exam I opened looked like this:

Exam Cover

Needless to say, this looked like a pretty good exam. I was excited to go through it. Then I got to the first page (as seen below):

Exam1

The hugeness of the changes going on in my life became a little more real to me after reading that.

I'm going to miss this place. 🙁

Final Exam Projects- Day 2

I've made the switch. This year I've been using a cumulative project in lieu of a traditional written test, and at this point I believe that the projects are a better indicator of student knowledge than the old examinations.

Students have just started working on their final projects for the 3rd Trimester. So far, I'm impressed. Day 1 is usually always a bit of a waste. Students aren't sure what they want to do or how to start so they end up doing lots of email checking, Google Image labeling, Impossible Quiz taking, and other things that are probably violating their AUP's. Day 2 is when the action happens (for most). They figure out what format they're going to use for their exam, and start to frame how they're going to include the required information into that format. About 25% of the projects I've seen from students so far look like they're going to be great. I don't mean simply deserving of an "A." I mean they look like they'll be shiny monuments to mountains of knowledge!

A couple things I've learned to do as I've done more of these cumulative projects:

  • Push for more than just bulleted points of information. It's dull to read, it's dull to write, it's just dull.
  • Demand diagrams, graphs, graphic organizers, and media-rich projects. These are more interesting than text, and they generally demonstrate a student's understanding of a topic more clearly.
  • Require projects to show the student's understanding of how the material covered in the class is interconnected. We covered volcanoes & plate tectonics this trimester. I want them to show me how they relate.

If you'd like to see the project description and rubric for the 3rd Trimester final exam, visit my school homepage. There are links to the rubric and a brief explanation of what is expected. Let me know what you think. What would you add? How might it be structured differently?