Try not to laugh… I bet you can’t!
Philosophy of Assessment and Evaluation:
I believed in a system driven by grades. I thought zeroes were fair game and by removing them we were making 50’s become the new 0’s. Furthermore, I thought that pass/fail classes were a joke and learners would not try without an extrinsic motivation (grades). During the first class when you asked if we should mark behavior, I was all for it! I thought that marking behavior prepared students for the real world!
After reading for the learning journey blog posts, I have changed my mind. As Todd Rogers, a psychologist from U of A, suggests, “a zero indicates the student knows nothing about a topic when they might actually know plenty… the mark of incomplete is more honest” (Sands, “Educators defend no-zero rule”). I believe that 0’s mark a behavior. They punish students and give them the chance to opt out from completing the curriculum outcomes (which is the purpose of them being in that course). Often zeroes are a result of late marks, and in the “real world” time is flexible. It is important to note that“the no-zero approach puts the onus on the teacher to do everything possible to ensure students are learning what’s in the curriculum” (Sands, “Educators defend no-zero rule”). Students are still held accountable to do their work but their behavior is rated separately. If students do not do the main assignments in the term they cannot get a credit.
Fun fact: A newspaper article about cholesterol and wanting to get a zero to avoid a high cholesterol rating was what changed my opinion!
Redo’s were something I was against. The first time we talked about this in class, I thought “How is that fair to the top students who got it the first time? Wouldn’t everyone have high marks then?” After some reflection I thought, “But wait, Kourtney, the goal is not for students to compete against each other for marks. It does not matter if they all have 80s. The goal is for everyone to get it at any time that they can.” Now I think that everyone deserves a second chance; Guskey notes that we can ignore “low quiz scores,” allow for redo’s, consider marks “from a previous marking period,” or weight course material differently (2011, p, 87-8). Shepard also shares this idea and states that redo’s allow for fair evaluation (2008, p. 44).
Student role in assessment process:
Before reading Making Classroom Assessment Work and attending ECS 410, I never considered letting students be part of the criteria-building process or informing them about what outcome they were trying to meet. I did not feel right about students coming to parent-teacher interviews.
I believe that students need to be part of the learning process! They need chances to self-assess, compile their own learning (portfolio or blog), and should always be present at conferences/interviews. This is because learning is lifelong and for their benefit! I also think students should get a chance to decide the weights of assignments because they know themselves best. Students should be aware of the outcomes.
- Laurie Gatsky noted that “assessment should not be a secret.”
- “Students can reach any target that they know about and that holds still for them” – Anne Davies
- 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).
- We must show students “what is expected and what success looks like” (2011, p. 30).
- Anne Davies notes that students need specific “descriptions of what needs to be learned” or referenced (2011, p. 27).
- Kelly Gallagher also highlights this idea in Chapter 3 of Teaching Adolescent Writers.
- Samples and models are needed for student success.
Practice Time/Descriptive Feedback/Less Grading:
I have always believed strongly in descriptive feedback and practice time!
- Noskin (2013) stated that “assessments must be formative and frequent with timely feedback; a summative assessment should follow at the unit’s end” but not before then (p. 73).
- Davies (2011) also states that “when students are acquiring new skills, knowledge, and understanding, they need a chance to practice” (p. 2).
- Guskey notes that when feedback is given with grades, students’ “grades on subsequent assessments significantly improved” (2011, p. 86).
- Anne Davies also emphasizes descriptive feedback in Making Classroom Assessment Work. She notes that “evaluative feedback gets in the way of many students’ learning” and students only “understand whether or not they need to improve but not how to improve” (2011, p.17-8).
- “Increasing the amount of descriptive feedback, while decreasing evaluative feedback, increases student learning significantly” (Davies, 2011, p. 3).
- “The more specific, descriptive feedback students receive while they are learning, the more learning is possible” (Davies, 2011, p. 58).
I believe that we need to asses students on many things!
- Anne Davies (Making Classroom Assessment Work) expresses that teachers must “gather evidence from a variety of sources, and that they gather evidence over time” (2011, p. 45).
- Observations, products, conversations are some of the sources!
- “We can avoid pretending that a student’s whole performance or intelligence can be summed up in one number” – Peter Elbow.
- Bernhardt (1992) states “that it is unreliable to base [evaluation] on a single sample of student writing” (p. 333). Thus, it is also unfair to evaluate students on “a single sit-down test” (Bernhardt, 1992, p. 333).
- When students are faced with exams, or one time to shine, they are more worried “about what will be on the test rather than thinking about learning” (Shepard, 2006, p. 41). Grades, which are extrinsic rewards, “can reduce intrinsic motivation” (Shepard, 2006, p. 42).
Anne Davies notes, “students learn in different ways and at different rates” (2011, p. 43) and I believe our teaching/assessment needs to reflect this. This includes differentiation, oral and verbal instructions, assignment choices, etc.
- “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).
- Lillian Katz’s quote “when a teacher tries to teach something to the entire class at the same time, chances are, one-third of the kids already know it; one-third will get it and the remaining third won’t. So, two-thirds of the children are wasting their time.”
Use of Assessment and Evaluation:
Diagnostic – Today’s meet, exit and entrance slips, quick-write questions: what is going well? What needs to be changed? How do you feel out of five about your understanding of the novel.
Formative- Thumbs up (instead of mini whiteboards from “Classroom Experiment”), talking to students one-on-one and asking for their understanding or feedback on my teaching (idea from “Classroom Experiment”), bell work, paragraph responses, jigsaws, think-pair-shares, class discussions, group work, carousel activity, talking circle, Venn diagram on gender, cold call (instead of lollipop strategy from “Classroom Experiment”), jeopardy review, homework checks
Summative – Island art, presentations, worksheets (story plot line) and questions, inquiry letters, vocabulary worksheets
Student Involvement – Student choice on dates and schedule of assignments. Student choice on assignment representations. Students got to self-assess their efforts and debate marks. Students were aware of the curriculum outcomes (orally and verbally introduced).
Accommodations/Differentiations – I had to give certain students extensions. I was supposed to give zeroes but I did not do this. I would talk to them individually and then see what dates worked for them. One student had an anxiety disorder so her presentation was done individually. She only had to do it in front of three teachers and a friend instead of the whole class. Two students had to do an island art assignment on their own (missed the class day so they missed the group work) and I gave them extra time to accommodate less people.
4 Key Lessons
- YOU DO NOT NEED THE TEXT TO GET TO THE OUTCOMES! WE SPEND SO MUCH TIME ON COMPREHEND AND RESPOND (1 OUTCOME) BUT ONLY ABOUT 3 DAYS ON THE OTHER, LARGER, MORE COMPLICATED OUTCOMES. THESE ARE OFTEN JUST THROWN IN AND HAVE LITTLE TO DO WITH THE NOVEL. THE NOVEL ACTUALLY COMPROMISES THE OUTCOMES IN THESE CASES! ENGLISH INSTRUCTION NEEDS TO FOCUS ON STUDENT INTERESTS AND THE INQUIRY QUESTIONS/THEMES IN THE CURRICULUM. IT IS THEN THE JOB OF THE EDUCATOR TO MAKE THESE QUESTIONS AND INTERESTS MATCH THE OUTCOMES, INDICATORS, AND ASSESSMENT PRACTICES.A NOVEL IS A NOVEL. IT IS NOT A CLASS. “The text is not the unit” (Noskin, 2013, p. 72).
I PLAN TO STRUCTURE MY CLASS BASED ON THIS UNDERSTANDING!!
2. Beginning with the end in mind:
- Did this on the unit plan and for the class. Started with the outcomes and what my weekly overviews would be.
- Students engage when their interests are reflected. I intend to find out about my learners and match their interests to the curriculum outcomes. Taking a book and making outcomes fit is almost impossible and doing it the other way around makes more sense.3. Rubrics:
- Rubrics are vital and allow you to mark students based on a standard/outcome, instead of compare each other
- Students also figure out what they need to do
- Make rubrics with 4 boxes (so they do not always get put in the middle)
- Rubrics should not have numbers, letters, etc.
4. Finally we must slow down “to create a learning culture… instead of a grading culture” (Shepard, 2006, p. 41). I would rather have my students’ master two things than touch on 800 poorly. This is reflected in the curriculum and will guide my instruction/assessment. We do not need to hit every indicator to get to the outcome. Give students choice so they can hit the outcome really well in one or two ways!
Challenges and Further Questions:
- I found grade reporting to be difficult (especially since I had to mark everything). I wonder how I can do this in a more efficient manner.
- I found that catching-up missing students was hard. I often got them to get the materials from their friends but they still missed out on instructional time. I have been researching flipped classrooms and I think this might be one way to work around this problem. This is because the instruction/lecture is posted online in a video or multi-media format that students can access at any time. Then when students are in class they do their work, meaning students can all be working on different things. This also ensures that homework is being handed in! What other strategies are there for welcoming students who often are missing back into your classroom?
- How do we balance the fine line between helping/supporting and enabling/encroaching on independence?
- How do you motivate students without the “mark threat?” I know this is terrible but often students are so focused on marks, it seems like the only way to get them to do their work. Maybe this is a sign that more engaging explorations need to be made in class so that students want to learn!
- I am still unsure about co-constructing rubrics. I am not competent enough to do this… yet.
- I believe in self-assessment. However, many professors have told me not to do it because students end up giving each other the wrong answers. How do you teach students to self-assess appropriately and make this activity beneficial? How much time should be set aside for self-assessment?
- How does a teacher decide what summative assessment is more important than others? How are weights applied and how should this be determined?
- I am still unsure of our no-failing policies. I have yet to find articles that say failing Grade One is detrimental and I feel like repeating grades should not be looked at as a bad thing. If you need an extra year to learn to read, then so be it! However, I know that professors and some educators have a different perspective that cannot go uncredited. I want to find more information about this topic so that I open myself up to both perspectives. Do you know of any resources, specifically about repeating grades?
- When is it best to mark students? How long do you wait to do summative assessment?
- What method can be used to replace the grading system?
- How do we implement a consistent grading system that provides all students with an equal opportunity, regardless of where they live?
- Reporting under outcomes seems like a great idea! If your gradebook is set up under outcomes and an assignment covers more than one outcome, where do you place it?
- Would you make one rubric per outcome? Would that work if students were exploring the outcomes through various indicators and choices?
- Another thing I struggle with is not comparing students to each other. I agree that students deserve to be held to a standard and that their learning is not a competition. But this is easier said than done. I found myself comparing work so that I could ensure myself that I was being fair. I really hope I get more confidence and skill with grading so that I stop doing this.