How I wrote my physics standards

General guidelines for writing standards

1. Not too broad, not too specific – I began by asking myself these questions: Would students understand what to do if they read it?  Does it encompass the right amount of knowledge?  Although the ‘right amount’ is open for debate, I based my definition on my experiences so far as a physics teacher.  Each standard should be written such that it encompasses an important understanding/skill related to physics that probably shouldn’t be broken down further – (this will depend on the content area and/or level of the students).

For example:

Too broad:
I can explain the movement of objects by applying Newton’s three laws of motion.

While this IS an important goal for understanding, it encompasses too much knowledge to be a useful guide for understanding throughout a unit.  Each of Newton’s laws requires its own attention and it would be difficult to assess a student’s proficiency in this standard without drawing attention to smaller understandings first.  Accomplishing this goal means knowing how to add vectors, draw a force diagram, explain the relationship between net force and acceleration, etc…so we should really look at those goals more specifically first to gauge progress, maybe then we can tackle this one as it is written.

Too specific:
I can label force vectors correctly.

Again, this is an important thing for students to do…but if all goals were this specific there would be too many to keep track of.  If we were this specific, we may also have to include…”I can draw straight vector lines, put arrow tips on the right side of the vector, start vector tails at the dot, etc.”  These things can all be lumped under one standard “I can draw a properly labeled force diagram.”

Just right (for me):
I can draw properly labeled system, force, force vector addition, and net force diagrams for a chosen system/object.

I don’t describe all the subtleties of each diagram but I listed them all in the same standard since they are often drawn in conjunction with each other and would likely be assessed together.  I used the terms ‘system/object’ because not all diagrams listed depict only one object at a time.  This is just right for me, for now…we’ll see how the assessment of this standard goes.

2. Student friendly language in form of “I can…” statement – Students should be able to comprehend the language used in the standard and each standard should indicate something students should ‘be able to do’ as a result of their understanding. I avoided phrases like ‘I know..’ or ‘I understand..’ since these are not as concrete. (although they may appear occasionally)

3. Have some idea of how this will be assessed – I only wrote the standard if I had at least some notion (in my head) of what it will look like to show proficiency in the standard and how I could possibly get at a student’s understanding of the it.

***Update: Since writing this post, I’ve changed the standards below and you can see them here.

About each course:

Physics – This class is for 12th grade students in preparation for college.  The goals for this class are based of the goals from the modeling physics curriculum. Below are the standards for each unit as of now. (note: I’m still trying to decide on the Unit 1 goals for this class…any suggestions would be appreciated.)

AP Physics C: Mechanics – This class is for 12th grade students interested in pursuing science/math related careers in college.  We cover only the mechanics content in preparation for the AP C exam.  The goals for this course are based off the AP C Mechanics objectives in combination with modeling physics curriculum objectives. (Note: missing unit 1 goals here but will write soon)

The standards template and standards were also based off of work from other teachers, especially Frank Noschese and Kelly O’Shea.  Thanks!



Filed under Standards Based Grading

4 responses to “How I wrote my physics standards

  1. jsb16

    Nice work! I added your standards to my collection:

  2. I’ve thought about writing rubrics for my students to use to address their progress through math topics of study but I’ve have had trouble finding the right language, the right matrix. The right language comes from having the right focus. The right focus comes from having the right topic. The right topic comes from knowing what students find interesting and meaningful (it changes). Your work has been inspirational to me. Thank you.

  3. Sam

    Thanks for your response David. You are right that it is difficult to find the ‘right’ focus. I continually struggle with deciding what is most important for my students to learn. For my physics courses, I based most of my focus off of a curriculum design (modeling physics) that favors depth of understanding a small number of topics over a shallow understanding of many. I think this is best for my students, but I know that some physics teachers feel differently. I’m sure there are the same healthy debates in the math teaching realm.

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