Response for Ch. 9 and 10

Communicating About Learning

In Chapter 9 Davies discusses that caregivers are busy but both teachers and caregivers “come together in caring about the student” (2011, p. 85).  Communication may be difficult but students benefit from many individuals, including themselves, being part of the conversation. Students should be involved with “the process of preparing and presenting” because it “gives students the opportunity to construct their understanding and to help others make meaning of their learning” (Davies, 2011, p. 86). Also, it is important that all parties involved give feedback (Davies, 2011, p. 86). Some ideas are a student=generated newspaper, self-assessments and work samples, demonstrations of learning and student-parent-teacher conferences. The one thing that I question is involving students in all conferences; sometimes there are issues to deal with that I do not think the student needs to be present for. However, most of the time I think this is a good idea. I like the idea of teachers getting anonymous feedback.

I would personally like to have an online course where all assignments, feedback etc. is accessible to parents and students. I think parents should receive notes from their teachers. Using agendas and sending notes home and requiring students to get an initial of their caregiver(s) is one way to continue the conversation. I think student involvement is increased if you require them to have a portfolio, take books home to read, run a conference, etc. and these ideas are all things I want to incorporate. In the end, students should be doing as much work as the teacher!

One thing I wonder about is how the learning centers at a parent conference would work. This seems confusing and like an excessive amount of work.

“We can avoid pretending that a student’s whole performance or intelligence can be summed up in one number” – Peter Elbow.

There is no one right or best way to do this” – Davies.

“It is good to have an end to journey towards, but it is the journey that matters in the end” – Ursula Le Guin.


Evaluating and Reporting

Davies notes that “evaluation and reporting occur at the point in the classroom assessment cycle when the learning pauses, and the evidence is organized and evaluated by comparing it to what students needed to learn” (2011, p. 93). Then the results are shared, usually on a report card. An easy way to understand this is evaluation = end. Assessment = all the way through.

Evaluating requires teachers to professionally and fairly look at what a student can do, in relation to a standard (usually a grade or age level). Areas of improvement should also be recorded (Davies, 2011, p. 93). This is a subjective practice! Professionalism comes in when we make sure we collect many pieces of evidence that are reliable and valid (triangulation) (Davies, 2011, p. 94). I wonder how teachers decide what assignment is worth the most?

I like the idea of talking evaluation through with students before they go home so they can explain it to their parents. An explanation of grades, etc. should also be included. Students should also be given a chance to evaluate themselves and teachers and students can talk if their marks do not match. Not only does this create a less subjective evaluation, debating and negotiating is an important life skill for students to have.

Something that really bothers me is the idea of “compensating for the compulsory.” We are required in secondary schools to report using grades, percentages, letters, etc. yet research shows that this results in “less impressive learning, less interest in learning and less desire for challenging learning” (Kohn, 1999). This is very confusing and if I want to try to implement a grade-free class but am required to mark in the end it seems a bit hopeless. I hope we align our teaching practices with the current research but it seems we are often years behind (look at inclusive education, for instance).

One random idea about making group work accountable (do not know why this chapter made me think about it, but it did): Students would be made aware of this beforehand and sign a contract. Then a 100 points is assigned to each student. At the end of the process, students self-evaluate themselves and then each other and debate what mark each person should get out of 100. If everyone does their share they get 100. However, if one person did 70% of their work they get 70. Then the person who picked up the slack gets 130. The teacher then gives them a mark and considers students self-assessed mark. If the group got a 70% overall in this scenario, person one would get 49% (70×70/100), person two would get 49 (70×70/100), and person three would get 91% (130×70/100). I would not want to give those low marks BUT I think if this was used and explicitly explained, students would be motivated to participate equally. Not perfect, but definitely something that could be adapted.

Chapter 7 and 8 Response

Using Assessment to Guide Instruction

What I gathered from this chapter is that it is important to include students in classroom assessment, like daily routines, to foster better learning opportunities. Davies gives the example of constructing a list of good reading tips as a class. When I taught Grade Five we made a list of what it means to be a good oral presenter. Then this criteria guided their speeches. I like that Davies mentions that teachers should add what students miss. I also like the idea of taking the criteria and using it to assess areas of improvement and strengths.

A quote that stuck out for me was: “Isn’t it time your students worked harder than you?” It is true that whoever is working hardest in the classroom is learning the most so a balance would be ideal. Now, that is easier said than done!

Guiding Your Own Learning

1. I find that students are most engaged in their learning when they are interacting with each other and have a clear direction. In this particular instance, students were in a circle sharing insights about a specific teacher-guided question. The strategy used was a jigsaw so that students could focus on one thing and get a chance to be the teachers. I was circling the room during the initial jigsaw group work and making sure everyone was understanding their task. Then I sat with the students in the circle but did not have to facilitate too often because of the talking stick used. Students knew the purpose because we just had read a book that related to the topic. However, they did not know the curriculum outcome. They were able to self-monitor and their discussion was more in-depth than I had expected. To make it even better, I would let students know the outcome they are working on.

Collecting, Organizing, and Presenting Evidence

I like the idea of getting students to be accountable by making them collect and evaluate their own work, with some teacher support. I think students are more likely to redo their work and take pride in it if they know it will be collected in the end. Davies also mentions that these packages are great data sources and foster communication with parents (2011, p. 74).

The steps:

1. Keep it simple and give students direction, purpose, audience and reasoning.

2. Involve students so they know more about what they learned and what they need to learn.

3. Get students and parents to value the work. One idea is a student led conference (Davies, 2011, p. 78).

4. Share the evidence! This can include showing works in progress, reflections on the course/learning and best works! There are many types of portfolios (process, reporting, best-work, and learning goals). Whatever one is selected, make sure there is a straightforward and consistent system in place.

I personally want to do blogging with my students or an online portfolio of work. This is easily shared and is relevant to our technological world. I did many creative portfolios in English, career and physical education and thoroughly enjoyed them. I could easily tie this into the English curriculum and it fits nicely with the writing process. I would get students to put information under each ‘I Can’ curriculum statement to show their mastery. I think students, parents and teachers should add work to a portfolio. I think it would be cool to build a blog from an early age across all subjects. This would be a great way to monitor growth throughout the years. Also, many people could provide feedback throughout the years/studies.

I wonder if a mark at the end (with feedback throughout) would be more beneficial than marking each piece. I also wonder if this would motivate students more? Parents would need to be made aware of this change.

Chapter 5 and 6 Responses

Davies “Making Classroom Assessment Work”

Chapter 5: Evidence of Learning

  • Sources: observations, products/creations, conversations/conferencing.
  • Triangulation: evidence collected from three different sources over time, trends and patterns become apparent.
  • Need all three types to have reliable/valid evaluation.
  • Observations need to be focused/specific (just like goals).
  • Consider how you will record observations and relate the observation to the purpose of the learning activity.
  • Products/student creations should allow for choice.
  • Conversations/conferencing allows students to self-assess and take ownership of their learning.
  • I think that conversations allow teachers to learn not only about what their students have learned, but also about who their students are as people/learners.
  • Evidence should be ongoing.
  • “Consider assessing more and evaluating less” (Davies, 2011, p. 52).
  • All assessment should relate to curriculum outcomes/indicators/learning purpose.

Chapter 6: Involving Students in Classroom Assessment

  • students to set and use criteria: this gives them control of their learning and a better understanding. Example: classroom rules
  • self-assessment: provides time to learn and process, give feedback to themselves and transition from one activity/class to next; this promotes independence and self-monitoring. Tip: include clear criteria, samples and models.
  • descriptive feedback sources: “The more specific, descriptive feedback students receive while they are learning, the more learning is possible” (Davies, 2011, p. 58).
  • goal setting: increases motivation and sets a learning purpose/focus.
  • students to collect evidence of learning: to increase accountability and ownership. Example: portfolio.
  • students to present evidence of learning: to get students to see themselves as learners and take more accountability of their work. Tip: present to many different audiences.


Davies points out that “the ideas themselves are simple, but the implementing of them in today’s busy classrooms will take some time” (2011, p. 61). This statement speaks to me.

Before reading this text and attending this class (ECS 410) I never considered letting students be part of the criteria-building process. I am still curious as to how this would work. Also, I wonder what self-assessment would look like. Other than the odd self-assessment assignment, I have never seen this in action. Davies suggests getting students to assess each other. I have had other professors tell me not to do this because sometimes students give each other wrong advice. How do you teach kids to self-assess appropriately? How much time would this entire process take? Is it more or less work for the teacher? I know that conferencing would take a lot of time so how do you fit that in as a classroom teacher? Do you request students to come outside of classroom time?

Triangulation was also a new topic for me. I think one way I can make sure I am using all sources to evaluate is by simply rotating them. I could have a chart with each source and make a tally every time it is used, in hopes for a balance.

I thoroughly believe in student choice. One quote that my mother, who is also an educator, passed on to me is: “Many teachers teach every child the same material in the same way, and measure each child’s performance by the same standards… Thus, teachers embrace the value of treating each child as a unique individual while instructing children as if they were virtually identical” (Mehlinger, 1995). I think this chapter gives many suggestions to avoid assessing students the same way. Choice is only fair and using triangulation broadens the choices and fairness even more! I also like the idea of creating a portfolio of work and getting students to present this work so that they are accountable.

Three common trends in the text are student-lead learning, more time and more feedback. These are all things I am starting to understand and think I can do!

Chapter 3 and 4 Responses

Beginning with the End in Mind

I like the quote that says “students can reach any target that they know about and that holds still for them.” Too often, the teacher only knows the outcome and this leaves the students unaware of what they are specifically learning or why they are completing a task. To connect this to my ELNG instruction, we are learning that if we are looking at a text with a deconstruction or a gendered lens, we need to explicitly tell kids this and explain why so that they can internalize these strategies. Involving students in all stages of the learning problem should reduce questions like, “when will I ever use this?” I love the idea of putting outcomes and indicators in student/teacher/parent friendly terms. Not only will students get more control of their learning, parents will have an easier time getting involved. Also, I think this would help teachers understand what they really want from students. This seems like a lot of work but Davies suggests using this simplified sheet in parent-teacher interviews, report cards and when making criteria with students, therefore one task can have many uses.

Describing Success

In order to describe success, educators need to know what success looks like. As a pre-service teacher, I have yet to figure this out.

The chapter also outlines that all students learn in different ways and should have many options to express their learning. Students need to be shown samples and models. They should also be part of the criteria making process so that they can give themselves descriptive feedback. When creating criteria with students, Davies suggests “1. Making a brainstormed list; 2. Sort and categorize list; 3. Make and post a T-chart; 4. Use and revisit and revise.” Samples help students but they also help teachers. Packages can be made that show different representations of learning, gaps in student ability and inform professional judgment and they can be collected between colleagues, schools and divisions.


Davies suggests creating our own assessment plan. I think I would really like to take the ELA curriculum and summarize the outcomes and indicators. I think this would be great to do with a in-service teacher. That way, I would have a document that is more understandable and accurate to best support my students. I think this would be a worthwhile practice to do with my co-operating teacher this semester.

However, first I think I would need grade-appropriate samples. I can read and understand the outcomes and indicators but it is hard to know what that means for each grade level. Also, since I have never taught fulltime I do not have a sample base to pull from. This is an area where I will need to collaborate with a co-worker or two. As my career expands, it will be important to save student work so I get better support my learners.

Chapter 2 Response

Chapter 2 discussed how to get students involved in the learning process and assessment process. Students need to know that mistakes happen, practice and feedback are needed and success takes on all shapes and sizes. Once again, it is suggested to “reduce the amount of evaluative feedback and increase the amount of descriptive feedback” throughout all stages of the learning (Davies, 2011, p. 18). To succeed, student need to be shown samples and not just receive oral directions.

Guiding Our Own Learning

I have always enjoyed when teachers model in front of the board. For instance, in an English class instead of saying, “do a compare/contrast essay” I like when they actually model it for the class. The class all takes part and ideas expand. I like conversational or written feedback and I like when it is honest but not attacking my work. If someone tells me what I did great and what I need to work on, that is a lot more beneficial than saying that it was all terrible or throwing a 60% on the bottom. When evaluative feedback is given, I still rely on verbal or written feedback (descriptive).

I could see this come to life in my classroom by giving lots of practice time. I hope to do station teaching where things can be modeled. I also hope to spend time expanding assignments rather than moving quickly from thing to thing. I think doing group work or jigsaws or literature circles would be a great way to allow students  time to master a task before doing it on their own. I think self-assessment can be a focus in my classroom as long as the teacher is still giving ample feedback and doing check-ins. Students cannot figure it all out on their own and would need structure. They may be given questions or a checklist. At the end of the day, it all comes down to explicit instruction.

Chapter 11 Response

Chapter 11 focuses on keeping ourselves learning. It is important that education does not stop for us, as we do not want it to stop for our students. One way to learn and get support is through a professional learning community. This reminds me a lot of co-teaching, as things like respect, support, safe environments, plans, facilitators, simple goals, etc. are needed for both. These requirements are also needed in classrooms. As a university student I feel that I have a strong support system of inclusive educators and English majors and minors. I also have many discussions with people from other disciplines (mostly social studies). We all are becoming teachers for different reasons but we share a similar passion – children and learning. Therefore, talking for hours about the latest teaching strategy, governmental choice or assessment tool is just a day in the life. I hope to continue these positive relations as I move on throughout my career. It is nice to have support and two minds are always better than one!

Collaboration is at the core of my teaching philosophy. I have heard of schools that review and create lessons together. I am a firm believer of sharing work and developing work together. As educators, we can make a larger impact on our students’ learning if we work together. We are not being paid to compete with each other!

Finally, this quote at the end of the chapter really encapsulates the idea of breaking away from the common sense (another part of my teaching philosophy): “At first they said it couldn’t be done but some were doing it. Then they said it could only be done by a few under special conditions, but more were doing it. Then they said, ‘Why would you do it any other way?’” (Davies, 2011, p.110). We can accomplish the things that people tell us are impossible only if we work as a team.

Chapter 1 Response

Chapter 1 in “Making Classroom Assessment Work” by Anne Davies defines many terms that are part of the assessment process. These terms – for example assessment, evaluation, descriptive feedback, evaluative feedback, etc. – are defined in my blog post “Assessment Step 1: Know the Terms.” The chapter discusses getting students to be part of the assessment and learning process. One thing that struck me was the research stating that “increasing the amount of descriptive feedback, while decreasing evaluative feedback, increases student learning significantly” (Davies, 2011, p. 3). The assessment process involves looking at the curriculum, showing samples/practicing/creating criteria with the students, and evaluating. Students need to be part of the entire process to foster lifelong learning and it helps them understand the tasks better.

Guiding Our Own Learning

1. This chapter confirmed the importance of practice to me. As a basketball coach, we often go through each step and repeat the instruction throughout the entire season. Sometimes this is forgotten in the classroom. Sometimes we think talking to students means that they are learning when this is rarely the case. Practice, samples and explicit instruction are things that are part of the learning process and cannot be ignored.

As a pre-service teacher and an English major often people talk (or warn) about the amount of marking. This chapter suggested grading less and providing more descriptive feedback. This creates a shared work between the students and teachers and is not something I thought I would be allowed to do. It makes perfect sense though and many English texts suggest not scrutinizing every piece of writing that comes in.

I think self-assessment is wonderful and something that I have used before. Learners need to take responsibility for themselves, especially at the secondary level. I also am a firm believer of slowing down. Why move to the next thing if the task is not grasped? Less is often more. This ties into the practice time because instead of rushing on, students have time to work through a new topic or skill. This would foster an inclusive classroom, as students who would like to expand could have the time and others could have more time to learn the skill. Including the students in the learning process and allowing for ample practice time may take longer but it will be worth it if they succeed.

I would like to learn more about scaffolding, including students in the entire learning process and descriptive feedback (how to give it without turning learners away). If learners are receiving less evaluative feedback and are receiving more descriptive feedback, how do they stay motivated to do the work? One idea that I can think of is giving credit for work in middle but I would like more information about motivating students without giving marks.

Assessment Step 1: Know the Terms!

Assessment – gathering information on student learning. Assessment informs our teaching and helps students learn. Assessment should match your goals, objectives and criteria.

Evaluation – reviews the evidence and determines whether the students have or haven’t learned the information. Furthermore, evaluation includes placing a value on the work and deciding how well the students learned the information?

Assessment forinvolves checking to see what has been learned and what should come next; students help create and use the criteria; descriptive feedback based on specific criteria; student involvement; students self-assess; students set goals; students collect evidence of learning that relate to standards; students then present this information. Assessment for allows teachers to determine the next learning step.

Feedback – information about reactions to a product, a person’s performance of a task, etc., used as a basis for improvement.

Descriptive feedback – during the learning and comes in many sources. The learner gets information about what they are learning and is able to plan their next step. The more the better, as this feedback increases student learning! Descriptive feedback comes during and after and should be specific. It can be thought of as an ongoing conversation about learning.

Evaluative feedback – reported using grades, numbers, checks, etc. to show the learner how well he or she has performed in comparison to others or a standard. If used too often, student learning can decrease because it shows them that they may need to improve but not how to do so.

Summative evaluation – the teacher sums up the learning

Self-assessment/monitoring – students asses their own work, allowing mistakes to be areas of growth. Through this method, students can more effectively determine what to do to improve. This increases independent, self-directed, lifelong learning.

Criteria – should be specific and constructed with the students through a conversation of their learning.

Goals – should be set with students and it is important to only focus on one or two. When we slow down students have more time to successfully complete the learning cycle!

Goal Setting Conference – a way to get teachers, parents and students to asses their goals, strengths, weaknesses and interests at the start of the year.

Metacognition – awareness and understanding of one’s own thought processes.

Scaffolding – support given during the learning process which is tailored to the needs of the student with the intention of helping the student achieve his/her learning goals.

Reliability – the degree to which an assessment tool produces stable  and consistent results. Students produce the same kind of results at different times. Examples: test-retest, parallel forms, inter-rater reliability, internal consistency, etc.

Validity – how well a test measures what it is purported to measure. Evidence from multiple sources matches the quality levels expected by the standards/outcomes. Examples: face, construct, criterion-related, formative, sampling, etc.

Triangulation – evidence collected from three different sources (products, observations, conversations) over time, trends and patterns become apparent

Learning loop – we learn, we assess, and we learn more in a continuous cycle.

Norm-referenced assessment –  an estimate of the position of the tested individual in a predefined population, with respect to the trait being measured.

Criterion-referenced assessment – designed to measure student performance against a fixed set of predetermined criteria or learning standards—i.e., concise, written descriptions of what students are expected to know and be able to do at a specific stage of their education. This relates to the curriculum.

Check-ins – checking with students to see where they are on the learning cycle. Assignments can and should be broken down into steps so that teachers can make sure students are on track. This is also less overwhelming. Furthermore, check-ins can assess how students are feeling and address any areas of concern.

Community of learners – a safe learning environment where mistakes can happen and different learning styles are valued. Every student has a voice. Every student deserves to be included! Every student deserves to feel safe!

Professional Learning Communities – group of people learning together. The group requires respect, specific meeting times, support, a safe environment, attainable goals, organization, shared responsibility, etc. (just like our classrooms and students). Learning communities can often be within subject areas, divisions, etc. but they can also include people of all expertise and interests, from all over the world (thanks to technology).

Co-teaching – two teachers (or other professionals) share instructional responsibility and accountability for a single group of students whom they both have ownership. They share resources and co-teaching is voluntary. Both professionals are equal. This allows differentiated instruction to occur easier, two teaching styles to be present, and reduces the student to teacher ratio. There are many types of co-teaching: one teach, one observe; one teach, one assist; parallel teaching; team teaching; station teaching; alternative teaching.

Large-scale Assessment – needs only to collect a small amount of information from a large number of students to determine what students know, can do, etc.

Classroom Assessment – involves a large amount of evidence over time from multiple sources