IA progress - Celebrate the gains

I just spent 5 hours on a Friday night finishing up the grading of the internal assessment (IA) lab reports for my IB biology students.   I feel like I’ll never master the art of grading IAs.  However, I try harder each year.  This year I had both the 2013 subject report and the IB guide open on my computer.  I also had my IB examiner material available.  I went back and forth between sample work and the descriptors to accurately determine “complete”, “partial”, or “not at all”.  I was as careful as I could possibly be, taking short breaks so I wouldn’t burn out or get tired on a specific paper. I documented, in a word document, the justification for each mark I gave.  I don’t think I could have been more thorough.

Part of me is relieved to be basically done.  Part of me is discouraged to realize major gaps persist in my students’ work. I wonder how graphs appear in their work that I never taught or modeled for them.  I wonder why despite my two-year effort to consistently teach, model and have them rework graphs until they consistently demonstrated proper data processing and presentation that when they wrote their final reports their graphs look nothing like what they’ve been producing for two years.  How can this be?  We spent so much time on uncertainties and yet several students didn’t even include them.  I spent so much time working with them to control variables in an experiment and then they don’t bother.  

One of my students wrote the following beneath a graph, “The error bars show the margin of error the data has, they show how accurate the data is and how much u can trust the data collected".  I wanted to scream.  Since when do scientist "trust" anything? And the use of "u" is priceless.  After two years in both IB English and IB Science, this was the product?  I cringed to think of submitting the work feeling it somehow is a reflection of my abilities as an IB biology teacher.

In the context of my IB examiner training agenda, I was reading through and assessing submitted papers from May of 2013 to compare my marks with those of a moderator.  Suddenly I was actually comforted.  Some of those reports make my "u" student appear a genius.  Furthermore, my "u" student has finally written a lab report that, indeed, in many ways has surpassed all his past attempts.  I realize my students do have a sound grasp of the scientific method relative to many others out there.  So, even though I see major omission and mistakes, I realize they have learned.  I realize they have progressed significantly in the last two years.  It’s time to recognize and celebrate the gains.