May 4, 2018
I’ve been working to reform my classroom learning environment. This is a long-term project, aided by a wonderful colleague in my department (who I won’t name – she doesn’t like the spotlight). We are working hard for students to see that the classroom is a learning and feedback environment. That we are not going to ‘mark’ your learning. That the only thing that is ‘assessed’ is what you have mastered at the end of a unit. I’ve altered my conversation around marks gradually – shifting from numbers to descriptors and adding proficiency descriptors. I’ve changed how I ‘grade’ work we do in our classroom. I’ve even altered how I evaluated using pop check in’s to help students assess if they have mastered an area or not.
In the past few weeks though I noticed a holdover from my ‘past’ teaching practice. The word “Test”. So many kids cite anxiety about a ‘test’. Teachers use it as a ‘hammer’ and a ‘threat’ in their belief that it will get kids to do work. “There’s a test” then becomes the impetus for kids to study and learn. And it is held up as the measure of how well they are learning a subject. And yet I continued to use the word. It suddenly felt so wrong and so incongruent with my current teaching practice. For a while I settled on the word ‘evaluation’ as in “you’re learning will only be evaluated at the end of the unit”. It was a step up but still to me smacked of the idea of a ‘test’. So I put my attempt to eliminate the word ‘test’ out on Twitter to the #langchat crew. And the lovely Wendy Farabaugh replied that she uses the word ‘assessment’. Wow…assessment …great word. A simple snapshot in time of their mastery of certain skills. Not a punishing ‘right/wrong’ list of what students can’t do but an assessment of what they can. We ask kids to self-assess and I constantly assess my teaching – and now I’m making sure that my work with them is viewed via that lens too. Update: After reading the post a great reply from #langchat amie Natalia DeLaat. She uses “assessment” for more summative activities and “learning check” for smaller items – I’m going with that!!!!
So out with the words ‘quiz and test’ and in with the word ‘assessment’. It’s aligned with what I believe and what I am trying to practice. The only issue, beside my self-monitoring to make sure I no longer say the words, is the need to change the ‘wording’ on the cover of previous ‘tests’. And that’s an edit I’m happy to make!
January 20, 2016
One of the reasons I am making a big shift from numbers to proficiency/expectation descriptors is to ensure that students don’t wait for me to tell them how they are doing – but rather that they will know and be able to articulate for themselves. With this shift comes more challenges in improving feedback and learning opportunities for students. I am by no means good at this – but, as a believer in ‘small tweaks lead to big changes’ I have been experimenting with additional ways to provide feedback. I think I’ve been really weak on this in the past….so my ‘small tweaks’ this semester included:
Pop Check-In – born out of the frustration of students being able to do things for a quiz but not 10 minutes later, and a desire to see if they are really ‘getting it’, I introduced the concept of the “Pop Check-In”. These are not announced beforehand and focus on a particular skill/structure we may be working on. As my students know – and can repeat back to me – this is a chance to see ‘what is in their heads’ now. It is not ‘for marks’ but rather is for learning and feedback for them on how well they are internalizing a concept. More here….
Rubrics With Feedback – Ah Amy Lenord – where would I be as a teacher without the amazing sharing (and challenging) that you do! I realized after reading a piece by Amy that my rubrics needed to be reinforced with some ‘great job/for next time’ comments. And Amy’s amazing post on this inspired me to make a change to my rubrics too. With attribution, I have added her checklist to my oral interpersonal rubric – fabulous and so easy to use when I am grading students. Extending beyond that I decided that my writing rubric needed it as well. This is my first draft of this and I know it will evolve but I am looking forward to using it in the future!
Completion Required – I am taking in more small pieces of writing this semester. I realized in the past that I left too much to the final summative writing piece. My twist on feedback is not to do the corrections for them but to highlight areas of weakness and ask them to work on them. They get an ‘incomplete’ in my evolving grade-book until that is done and the piece is then marked as ‘complete’. In order to be able to do the corrections I often include hints or reinforcement of the concept via a written comment, a chat with me or pointing them to one of my on-line reviews.
Reflective Responses From Me – I am very keen on collecting reflections from students especially after they self-evaluate an activity. I used to read them but this semester I added what I thought was a missing component which is my comment on that reflection. So now – especially after a summative oral that has been self-assessed (yes – I do those!) I take the time to read and respond to their comments. Then they receive that back with their ‘unit summative’ sheet and I make sure to attach it so that they see the comments that I have made. I notice that they take the time to read and note them. I also do an ‘end of course’ reflection and take the time to write, or orally respond to each as well. They get this back at the final exam – a nice way to end I think.
Unit Summative Sheet – I usually don’t have students keep a summative writing piece but have always felt that they should retain something at the end of the unit to chart their progress. So this semester I introduced their unit summative sheet (brightly coloured so its easy to find). On it are two rubrics that I have filled out – their writing/oral pieces with checklist feedback (see above) showing how they are doing in meeting expectations. I also attach the pre-oral rubric they fill out – so that they can see how they felt about how they would do going into the oral. I am also looking to incorporate a space on that for them to include a reflection about what worked for them in learning in that unit and a place where they can articulate how they felt about their learning during that course of study (based upon a piece from the TELL project). I saw many students voluntarily take these out as we were preparing for finals to help them prepare.
Oh there’s so much more I think that I can do…but with these small steps I hope I’m moving in the right direction….
October 12, 2015
I have come to believe that the following statement is true for most of our students, “You know, I always know it for the quiz and then 45 minutes later I don’t remember what the concept was when I need to use it.” As a teacher this has always been a challenging area. How could they score so well on a quiz – and then not use it correctly in classroom interaction? How could I make a more accurate appraisal of where they are in acquiring a concept, and what they may or may not need to master it? How could I offer formative assessment on what they ‘really’ understand/know?
And so this year I began the “Pop Check-In”. When I first announced a “pop quiz” in my Year 3 class there were looks of horror. “A quiz? You hadn’t warned us! A quiz? For marks?” So I explained what the ‘pop check in’ is:
– It’s a chance to see what you have in your head ‘right now’ regarding this concept
– It is not ‘for marks’ but it is ‘for learning’ so I will ask that you provide ‘corrections’ for what you have not mastered
– It’s a chance for me to see if I have to do some further instruction/teaching around a point
I “mark” the check-in by circling areas that are not showing mastery. It lets me see where areas of weakness exist in individuals (one on one reinforcement) and the class as a whole (re-teaching a concept perhaps). Students then hand in their ‘updated (corrected)’ quiz for a completion mark.
Students like the approach. They tell me it really shows them what they know and don’t and some are surprised that they didn’t really understand the concept they ‘thought’ they knew. It is a way then to assess their own learning without a fear of it reflecting on their mark (which they are always focused on despite my efforts). If I choose to do a ‘for marks’ quiz it will come after this formative feedback.
The second and third time that I did this in class the students were happy to participate. They understand the ‘why’ behind the idea. I appreciate the opportunity for more formative assessment/feedback for them.
Pop Check-In Quiz – it’s a positive thing, and one I’ll continue to employ in class.