Monday, August 9, 2010

SBG: Tiger Woods

I wouldn't necessarily call myself a sports fanatic, but I do have a few teams that I follow and I usually listen to sports radio on my 45 minute drive to school each morning. This morning, the topic of discussion (at least for the part where I was driving) centered mostly on Tiger Woods and his current streak of poor play.

For those of you who don't follow golf, basically, you know Tiger Woods was a pretty awesome golfer. Then there was a bit of scandal about his personal life and he took a long break from the sport. He is working his way back into playing tournaments now, but has been nowhere near his previous level on the course. While there have been "glimpses of his former self" on certain holes, the general consensus is that he is not only playing poorly, but his body language seems to sometimes say that he doesn't even want to be there anymore. This is especially distressing for Tiger Woods because one of his best features previously was his mental focus and toughness.

Anyhow, here's why I'm writing about it here. For those of you with experience in Standards Based Grading (or some other similar system where current knowledge is more heavily weighted than previous), how would this sort of situation play out in your classroom? By the way the PGA ranks its players, Tiger Woods is still the #1 golfer (even after his long absence and recent poor play--that's how dominant he was previously), but anyone watching his current performances would know that he doesn't deserve that title currently.

I guess I'm asking it in two parts. One, do we take into account that his poor performance may be largely due to personal issues from off the course? If so, how can we help the student (and our gradebook) separate those issues from the performances? And if we don't do any sort of "averaging" system with the numerical grades, what's the best way to assess this student?

Two, if we disregard the personal issues (or don't believe they're the cause), what do you do with a student who has performed exceptionally for such a long time and then drops off dramatically (maybe "senioritis" or some other non-catastrophic issue comes into play)?


  1. Interesting. For me, a student that does well for a long time and then begins to drop is an obvious sign of something exactly like Tiger's situation: there must be something happening at home, or somewhere that is causing such a change in direction. That needs to be addressed at a psychological level, because who cares about grades and calculus when a kid is depressed or otherwise in distress?

    Grading philosophy is a whole other issue. The sports analogy sort of breaks down, but I would say that a student like this is having issues with retention, which means they never really learned the topic in the first place. I also think it's ridiculous that Tiger is still ranked No. 1, he's obviously not the most dominant golfer this year. Yes, career wide performance is important in sports, but translating that to the classroom is akin to giving a student a grade boost just because they did well in pre-calc.

    Fantastic question, but I think most students move from worse to better, which is what the SBG system is designed to promote. You may have a few Tigers in your class, but designing a perfect system for all of the outliers is questionable, I suppose.

  2. Thanks for your input, Shawn. I agree with what you've written for the most part, I think. So, you might suggest other forms of assessment, perhaps (individual conference, for example) and see if you can work out the cause with the student and then either address that issue directly or ask the student to try to leave that issue out of the classroom?

  3. I've actually called this the "Stevie Wonder corollary" to another teacher in real life. Tiger Woods is much more relevant and I'm totally going to steal that.

    I have no idea how golf rankings are calculated but when I steal this I'm going to pretend it's an average of the last x results and then talk about how sucky averaging is. Win!

    So I think ultimately the problem with this comparison is that ranking is != to grading. You've probably got a better analogy with his golf score = grades and so yes, his grades would go down. I think with students you definitely need to take current events into account so they deserve a bit of a pass for a time. On the other hand, if Tiger never gets his mojo back, we can't keep considering him the best golfer in the world right? So there comes a time when it's not longer a temporary state and I don't think it's possible to separate the two.

    2. If they can no longer demonstrate it, then it goes down. Senioritis isn't a good excuse.

    However, there's probably a emotional distress to length of probation formula. There's only so long "My girlfriend dumped me" will cut it. On the other hand, true traumatic events, like the death of a parent or sibling? I'd prefer an Inc if possible, if not, I don't know know if there's a hard and fast rule.

  4. Here's what I found, Jason.

    Yahoo Answers

    (I'd link to the wiki article, but they blocked it here in our school district.)

    So, apparently there is a small penalty to old data, but it's more of a weighted average than a total replacement of data.