EMRF (And Other Education Acronyms That Sound Like You Got Punched In The Gut)

Okay, I lied.

I can’t think of any other acronyms.

A better title for this post might be Implementing SBG Within A Non-SBG Framework. Or something like that.

So the good news is, after a five month drought where I only taught online and supervised a hybrid course at BGSU, I am finally back in a real classroom. MATH1260 or Basic Calculus for Business Majors.

The not so good news is that the course I am teaching is coordinated. I don’t have control over the content of the exams, the grading scheme used, or how much the exams affect my students final grade. I also do not have control over the homework, which is mandatory by course policy. So I cannot implement the SBG system I have been using since 2013 and I cannot tell my students that homework is practice and it is their choice whether they practice calculus or not.

Cue the sad trombone.

However! All is not lost. I do have control over the quizzes and the grades for the homework. I wanted to give the quizzes an SBG feel as much as possible within the constraints of the coordinated course. I couldn’t base the grade directly on student performance on learning standards since 75% of their final grade came from four midterms and one final. But I could use the quizzes as section-specific feedback for them as they learned.

I give very short quizzes–one question–at the end of each class. There is a quiz for each section of the textbook and re-assessments (not retakes, but reassessments) are allowed. Once we finish a section, I allow a day for homework and questions and then I give a quiz. When there is no new material to quiz on, I cycle back and give a new quiz over an old section. Students are allowed to keep the highest grade for all quizzes on a certain section.

At first I made the quizzes out of 10 points and used a rubric to grade the answers, but it was difficult to go back to this after using SBG. It felt too arbitrary and lacked the feedback of the SBG scale I had used in the past. (0-5 where each number represented a level of skill or understanding rather than points out of 5.) After the second week I transitioned to an EMRF rubric. There is a flowchart that summarizes the gist of EMRF below. I liked this a lot better as it was more descriptive than points out of 10 and reinforced the message that the quizzes were meant to feedback on student progress rather than a summary judgement of understanding.

If a student receives any type of R (Re, Ri, or Rc) or an F, they are allowed to submit a revision for an M. I also still give reassessments so that there are chances to students to earn an E in the future. I believe this constant low-pressure feedback has been good for the students, but the drawback has been a lot of grading for me, even if they are only one-question quizzes.

While this system isn’t perfect (And, really, what system where we have to give grades is?) I am satisfied with how it has been going. I am also interested to see how my students do on the common exams to see how well this daily feedback prepares them.

It’s good to be back in the classroom again.