What constitutes a good chart? What makes one students’ charts an ‘A’, while another students’ charts a ‘B’? This is the eternal question that we always must wrestle with in the SBS. The constant complaint from students that graders are not consistent from one to another is like the sound of nails on a chalkboard to many of us. But what do we do about it?
Many years ago, after growing tired of these complaints, we decided that the solution was to create quotas for how many observations and how many interpretations a student must have on each chart. This made the grading easier, as we were all on the same page as to how much work was expected on each chart. However this gave rise to another problem. Students’ charts would look impressive at first glance, with all the colorful observations, and lots of interpretations, but the beauty was only skin deep. The quality seemed to be going downhill. Many of us were quick to chalk this up to the problem of ‘this generation’, and left it at that. ‘This generation’ are a bunch of slackers. ‘This generation’ is just looking to put the minimum amount of effort into their work, but expects the maximum return. Our complaints went on…
In our 2010-2011 SBS, after years of struggling with these quotas, and struggling against the slackers of ‘this generation’, I decided to try something different for our last book, which was Revelation. We had the students make observations on the whole book, but instead of having quotas, we just told them to be ‘thorough’. What is thorough? I knew that we were leaving a big gaping hole for our graders to have very different opinions on how many observations a student should have, “but it’s the end of the school” I thought, “let’s see what they do”.
To my surprise, instead of seeing a drop off in the number of observations, we actually saw an increase in not only the number, but also the quality. One of the most impactful things I saw was one of our ‘C’ students, finally came alive and became excited to do observations! In debriefing her after the school, she said that losing the quotas was one of the most liberating things that she had experienced in her study of the Bible for the past nine months. Too bad that came only at book #66!
“Do I remove our beloved quotas for our next school?” I wondered. “What about the grading?” After talking to the staff, we decided that we needed to at least try. New students don’t know any different, so we can tell them anything we want in this area. So, with great fear and trembling we removed all quotas in their observations, and interpretations. There was no set amount of observations or interpretations that students needed to do in order to have a completed chart. All we told them is to ‘be thorough’, and then let them loose on their charts. Were they going to hand back charts with only one or two observations and a poor interpretation? We could only wait and see…
It didn’t take long until our fears were subsided. Our students came to the school excited to study the Bible, and that excitement drove them to dig deeper into the Word of God. With no quotas to meet, they could move quickly through the smaller charts and the charts with less important material, but dig in much deeper into the larger, more in depth charts. What resulted was some of the best charts that I have seen in my 11 years of staffing and leading SBS! Along with this, they were the most dedicated and passionate group of students we ever had, and they continued to enjoy studying the Bible throughout the whole nine months! My fear that students would do less on each chart without having quotas to meet was unfounded. Instead of doing less, most students actually did more! I found that students focused more on the joy of discovery in God’s Word, and less on how to satisfy their grader. These charts were deeper, were more detailed, and had more good, meaty interpretations than we had before. And to top it off, students were not as focused on how many charts they had on their horizontals!
We are about to start our second school where we have no quotas. It is a scary place because it puts more on us as staff to grade the actual work, which means that we have to engage the books more. Yes, as a school leader it does mean that we need to check up on how our staff are grading. However, the payoffs are: students who dig into the Word out of their own motivation and love for God, students who end up knowing the Bible better, and students who finish the school with a greater love for God, His Word, and for SBS. If you ask me, one of the best things that we have ever done in our SBS is to kill the quotas.
‘This generation’ are not a bunch of slackers. We just need to unlock the shackles that are holding them back!About the author: Bryan did his SBS in Kona in 1996. He came on staff of SBS in Kona in 2001 and he has been leading the SBS in Kona since 2009. Note From Judy Smith: We never had set amounts required per vertical when we developed the school. It depends on the content of the vertical. i totally agree with what Bryan is saying.