Genuinely differentiated grading with Khan Academy

I hope this is my last post on Khan Academy for a while.  It’s not that central to my teaching (I’d rather be writing about Desmos or something).  But I do think the tool I’ve designed to differentiate grading with Khan Academy may be useful to some folks out there.

I’ll link you to the screencasts for how it works, and then to a Google link for the actual spreadsheet file in Google Drive, but here’s the gist:

  • I don’t let Khan Academy automatically recommend exercises for my students to practice.  I want to be in charge of selecting what kids work on.
  • Khan’s main value is its memory quizzes, called “Mastery Challenges”, that check if a student has forgotten something we’ve learned (if they’ve forgotten a skill, it gets added back onto the student’s agenda).
  • But different students need to be held to different standards of retention and accuracy, per IEP’s and observations.
    • My new spreadsheet allows me to exempt some students entirely from these memory quizzes, and allows other students to earn full credit with reduced expectations of retention & accuracy.  Meanwhile, most students are still held to the full standard.
    • In addition, students can be exempted from the hardest exercises on an assignment.
    • On the opposite end, students who are really advanced can go ahead and earn extra credit by working on Khan Academy’s automatically recommended skills…but only after they have completed the assigned skills.
  • Here are the screencasts for my new grading tool. One thing to know: this year’s improvements have made it a very easy to system to maintain.
  • This spreadsheet explains how the teacher-facing grading system works.  The student-facing end is different.  It’s a technique for hacking around Khan Academy’s automatic recommendations and instead forcing kids to do the exercises you want them to do.  You can find a description here at this blog post.  It’s different than using Khan’s “Teacher recommendation” tool.  That tool does not re-add a skill you’ve recommended when the student fails the retention quiz on the skill.  So if your goal in using Khan Academy is to focus on retention, their “teacher recommendation” tool is useless.
  • Khan Academy’s content started weak, and some of you may not feel it’s ready for your use yet.  Depends on the course.  Apparently, AB and BC Calc were rewritten this summer, though I haven’t checked them out.  Algebra 1 is currently being rewritten, but those changes have not gone live yet.  In my spare time, I work as a volunteer to help them identify Algebra 1 improvements that need to be made.  There are many.  In August, I created a 30-page document suggested changes for about 25% of the course.  We’ll see how many of my suggestions they take.

Here is the link to the actual spreadsheet.

Future work: How can we add a feature that automatically pairs students up so each member of the pair has an assigned skill they’re able to teach the other?  All the required data is there in the spreadsheet, but I can’t figure out an algorithm that makes it work.


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