For the last 6 years I have been volunteering as the Coastal Regional Coordinator for the South Carolina National History Day Competition. I have been competing in the NHD Competition for a decade. This competition and the project based learning it facilitates demonstrates all of the characteristics my gamified teacher eye is looking for. There is collaboration and competition, autonomy, real world purposes, mastery of content and skills. In the Lazzaro concepts it is hitting all of the “Fun” requirements except “Easy”. If you would like to know more check out the NHD Website or send me a Tweet @MrPowley.

For the most part the Regional Coordinator position pretty straightforward. I recruit judges and prepare for the Regional Competition. We annually have about 400 projects made by 600 students so it can be a pretty big undertaking. The joy and excitement of Competition Day really make the organizational work worth it though. The biggest source of irritation, really the only source, I have as the regional coordinator is the tendency of the participating teachers to use the Judges Evaluation forms as scoring rubrics when grading their students’ projects. Judging is subjective by nature and the evaluation forms are vague. The evaluation forms are intended to serve as notes for the judges as they make their selections and eventual feedback notes for the students as they continue to hone their skills. NHD updated the forms this year with guiding language but even the updated versions are pretty subjective. This image shows the first 4 of 10 evaluation form categories.

What teachers often do is give each column a score (ex. 1 for fair and 4 for superior) and turn this into a scoring rubric. If you look at the language though it is still subjective. The problem comes when Students (and honestly, more often their Parents and Teachers) see that that the Judges evaluated their projects different than their Teachers. The other problem occurs when Judges with multiple flights select a project with “lower” marks to advance. This occurs because Judges from different Flights interpret the rubric differently. One Judges “Superior” might be another’s “Excellent”. By using the evaluation forms as a rubric the Teachers are misusing the form. I get why they use the form; it introduces students to the evaluation form, it should focus the projects on the goals of the competition, and frankly it is one less rubric to create.

Designing the SBG Rubric – 1st Examine the Standards

In my transition to Standards Based Grading last year I wanted to create an evaluation tool that I could use for class to teach the project, meet all of the goals of the competition, and meet all of the state standards for my course. In South Carolina we are in the process of transitioning to new History Standards and it just so happens that they align amazingly well with NHD goals. It’s almost like we should have been teaching the content through Historical Thinking Skills before! Here are the new 2020 US History Standards for High School.

The SBG Based NHD Grading Tool

After Comparing the NHD Evaluation Form and the SC State Historical Skills Standards here is what I have.

The SBG Based NHD Grading Tool (this should prompt you to make a copy)

Some Pictures if you don’t want to download the Google Sheets based tool.

The Majority of the feedback is provided on this page. The Standards Based evaluation scores (between 1-4) are entered in the Deconstructed Skills Section. I can add individual comments and suggestions in the cells next to the scores. I Use Screencastify to create feedback videos and share links with the students. If there are any rule violations (length, wordcount, etc…) that are not related to the skills I can comment on those as well.

To create a Quick Visual I have also created a Spider Web Graph of the scores that are found on the first tab.

More importantly though I have linked each evaluation category to a standards based rubric using the language found in the standards. Each skill Rubric also has an NHD Evaluation form connection for those students and teachers that are concerned about the competition evaluations. Finally, for some organizational guidance, the rubric also has a “most likely place to find the skill in the project” section.

You may have noticed that I left out the “Comparison” Skill. This is because I could not find the connection in the NHD evaluation forms. You may have also noticed that I doubled the Evaluation Section to include a Primary section and a Secondary section. I believe using these types of evidence effectively are two distinct skills.

The actual grading of the assignment uses a blend of SBG and XP Grading I call Powered Up XP but that is another post. Please Take and Use! If you have any suggestions or questions or just want to know more about National History Day hit me up on Twitter (@MrPowley) or leave a comment!