So I’m working on a research project in which I compare two groups of students understanding of the “nature of science” (how science works, philosophy of science, etc) (NOS for short). The difference between the two groups was the level of assessment. In the first group, informal assessment was used for NOS exclusively. That is, the assessment was in the form of questions in class to inform immediate teaching decisions. In the second group, the informal assessment still happened, but with the addition of formal assessment. The formal assessment was based on a NOS standard as part of the course standards. The second group outperformed the first.* But wait, there’s more!
The second group was not simply SBG. The assessment used with the second group is best characterized as “continual, reflective, & explicit” assessment. Continual, because the standard was revisited in assessments throughout the semester. Reflective, because students were expected to reflect on their own learning via self-assessment. Explicit, because one of the course standards was about the NOS.
Had the assessment change only been to make the assessment “explicit” via standards, I am confident the second group would not have outperformed the first group as clearly as they did. So, as you consider how to make your assessment more explicit with standards, don’t forget about the continual & reflective components of assessment for learning.
*there is a plethora of research to help explain this result, but this is not the time or place. If you’re really interested try searching for a paper with “beyond cold conceptual change” in the title by Pintrich, Marx & Boyle ca. 1993. They talk about how goals, motivation, self efficacy & control play a role in student learning. I think it’s easy to see how the second group’s assessment better supports those constructs.