Gathering evidence of learning VS gathering "marks": Why I spend way more time on formative assessment than summatives.
I have spent the last 4 years really delving deep into the power of assessment. Often, when people think about assessment, the usual suspects come to mind - tests, exams, quizzes, maybe a project or two.
I have spent countless hours reading and researching about assessment. All assessment. Assessment for, as and of learning. They all have their place and importance! But after all this time, here's my secret.... assessment OF learning is the one I do the least. To some, this might sound wrong... horrible! Is she not doing her job? Where are all the 'marks'? The marks that I have, while they may be fewer in number, are more powerful in their representation of student learning. Here's why...
I spent much more time and energy on assessment as and for learning because these are assessments that affect true change!! Assessment FOR learning (diagnostic and formative assessment) allows me to gauge student understanding before a "mark" is assigned. What good is it to me or my students if I discover on the final test, with a class average of 55%, that they didn't understand half of the content? How am I supposed to go back and pinpoint where we missed the boat at that stage in the game?
So, instead, I spent each and every day formatively assessing my students. Sometimes through observation (questions/responses in class, discussion, individual contributions to group work) and sometimes in more concrete ways like exit cards, formative quizzes, KWLs, puzzle games, or journals). But it doesn't stop there. As part of the professional learning cycle (plan, act, observe, reflect), I then reflect on the results of my observations or results and figure out how to adapt MY teaching in order to reach all learners. Sometimes, most of the class doesn't understand a concept and so I re-teach it, finding a better or more clear way to explain it. Sometimes, a few students haven't grasped the idea and I find a way to work with them to move them past this hurdle and on ward. All of this is happening before a single mark that "counts" is recorded.
During this phase, I also use another one of my most favourite tools: feedback. As part of assessment AS learning, I have students self assess and peer assess products which will become summatives. This year, as part of my Grade 10 History final task for the World War II unit, the students had their project "chunked" into 5 phases. At each of the first 4 phases, students were given assessment - first, self reflection/checklist; next - peer assessment/feedback; thirdly - teacher checklist and conference and finally, phase 4, teacher written, descriptive feedback. Feedback is so important to improve student learning. What good is it once the task is already completed and done?
"Feedback needs to come while the students still think of the learning goal as a learning goal – that is, something they are still striving for, not something they already did. Brookhart (2008)"
Only after these four phases was the final product submitted for evaluation... a "mark". We spent 3-4 weeks on this project, much of it during class time and I ended up with four "marks" - one for each category (Knowledge, Thinking, Communication, Application). Again, to some, this is shocking or terrible. Only 4 marks in 4 weeks?!
At first, this intimidated me. I always felt nervous at parent-teacher interviews when I only had a few "marks" to show parents. It's hard to explain, in a 10 minute time slot, to each parent that I don't have so few marks because I don't give work or because I don't mark things; there's a bigger reason behind it and I'm following the research on assessment and how it helps students. That it is less important for me to have 50 marks and more important to me to have 10 great, truly reflective ones. It's not that their achievement will be 'skewed' by so few marks; on the contrary, the fact that I don't count those first assessments is, in fact, much better for most students' "marks". It's still a bit intimidating to me because I know that this is not the way it was for many people in school.
The more I use formative assessment and feedback, the more my students understand it and its purpose. They see how it benefits them and can distinguish between a formative and summative task. By October, they would never ask me if an exit card or homework "counts" for marks.
This year, I plan to integrate more use of technology into my assessment and feedback; tools like Socrative, AudioBoo, Edmodo and Google Docs all provide excellent opportunity for assessment as learning - self, peer and teacher feedback, as well as assessment for learning, to check understanding of concepts.
You can find more of my compilations on Assessment on this website in my research/presentations section:
A fantastic resource is the Ontario website "Edugains" and their series on Assessment/Feedback:
"The most powerful single modification that enhances achievement is feedback."
When I launched my website earlier in 2013, I decided to add this blog component to it. I figure, what better way to share and showcase the amazing things my school and my students are participating in. It also gives me a chance to reflect on my own professional learning and to share my experiences, insight, feedback, and suggestions about the initiatives in my classroom, in a far reaching way which will give me the opportunity to get feedback and responses from our global community.
This school year (2013-2014), I am going to start blogging with my students. I have spent a lot of time reading online about the benefits of blogging and connecting with amazing educators on Twitter who are part of my professional learning network and who are avid bloggers. (See below for some comments on a few who I think you should know about!). Being on Twitter has shown me the power of a global audience and network; many of the people I connect with on Twitter are spread far and wide across North America (and beyond!). This leads me to my first point....
There's a ton of different reasons and philosophies and pros and cons. But here are the reasons I want to try blogging this year, based on my learning and research.
1. Authentic experience
What better way to get students to understand the power of words and ideas than to have them share it on a forum which can be viewed globally? I love the idea of a worldwide audience to read and share with. This gives students the chance to create their own digital footprint while building on the skills of research, critical thinking, reflection, writing and editing.
2. Collaboration and Discussion
These concepts can be separate and can be intertwined. The idea of sharing thoughts, reflections, ideas, creative writing, videos, music, etc. with an audience and then having the opportunity to discuss, debate, re-think, analyse, reflect, apply and engage is inspiring to me. The option to peer edit or to work with a partner on a concept or idea is such a real-world, 21st century skill. The option to post comments and share voice or written comments/feedback gives students something they couldn't have with a typed and submitted essay or poster board. The opportunity to discuss and connect with those outside the walls of the school means a more diverse perspective is available and offers an exciting chance for students to connect with those living across the province, country or globe!
3. Creativity, Innovation and Ownership
Blogs allow students so many opportunities to be creative and express themselves in a way that speaks to who they are as individuals while still demonstrating the key knowledge that the teacher is looking to assess. Some students might create videos, others 'photo essays', perhaps poetry or equations or quite simply a written reflection. Students have the chance to take ownership for their own creations and expression. The ability to embed media, include podcasts, edit templates, and share understanding in a multitude of ways means that there's no limit to the creative expression of knowledge that a student can share! The students also have the pride (and responsibility) of ownership! The blog is his/hers and can be set up to reflect his/her personality, interests, talents and passions. As a huge supporter and promoter of differentiated instruction, I really love how many opportunities there are in blogging for students to show their understanding or apply knowledge in diverse and creative ways!
4. Supporting 21st Century Learning Skills
Of course, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity are 21st century learning skills that I have already mentioned. But the last piece is the technology piece of the puzzle. Helping students to feel more at ease with the use of technology and ways to maximize its potential. Digital natives are already tuned in to many types of technology - namely, social media. Harnessing the power of technology for educational purposes and integrating (yes, fully integrating) technology is a key for 21st century learners. Blogging provides the opportunity to develop web skills, understand digital citizenship and its responsibilities and build an online presence and experience that students will need to understand and be at ease with for their futures.
There are many different platforms out there that teachers can use to blog with: Google Sites, Weebly, Blogger, Edublogs, WordPress, Wikispaces and Blogspot, to name a few!
Visit the sites, test them out, ask around and find out which one is best for you!
I am really looking forward to my blogging journey with my students and I will most certainly be blogging about it myself, here on this blog!
In closing, here's a shout out to a few of the bloggers who I have learned from and have been inspired by this summer:
- @davidtedu David's #eduslam on blogging is far more powerful and eloquent than anything I could come up with! If you haven't seen his slam, I highly recommend you check it out here:
- @KLirenman - I have connected with Karen a few times on Twitter and am really impressed with what she does with blogging. I love that Karen has two blogs: her classroom one: http://www.mslirenmansroom.blogspot.ca/ and her own blog where she shares teaching experiences: http://learningandsharingwithmsl.blogspot.ca/. The fact that she blogs with Grade 1 students proves that it can work at any age!
@kathycassidy - Kathy also blogs with young students. I just love all of the photos and videos on her blog! It really shows experiential learning at its finest! http://mscassidysclass.edublogs.org/
@PaulSolarz- I will gush even more about Paul when I blog about digital portfolios (eportfolios). Had the opportunity to do a Google Hangout with Paul on digital portfolios and left it very excited and full of ideas! His blog is his own e-portfolio of what he does with his students. Check it out: http://psolarz.weebly.com/mr-solarz-eportfolio.html
What does it mean to be a leader... to show leadership skills... to lead? There are probably more answers to what is a leader or what makes a good leader out there than anyone one person could ever read. A Google search of the word "leadership" brings up 294,000,000 results!
This year, through my school board, the Ottawa Catholic School Board, I completed a course in the "Leadership Journey" series called "Leadership, Part I".
This course was a five part session in which a variety of leaders in our board came to speak about what leadership means to him/her. We learned about the different types of personalities and leadership styles and how these affect our journey to leadership and how there is no one "right" style of leadership or one "best" way to lead; that successful leadership is a package of many different, interconnected pieces, variable by person, role and situation.
One of my take-aways from the session was the concept of "small l" versus "big L" leadership; the idea behind this premise is that "big L" leader are those with official leadership roles - coaches, mentors, managers, principals, etc., whereas "small l" leaders may not be in a formal leadership role but still have the opportunity to impact change and inspire others.
Many of us in education are "big L" leaders to our students but "small l" leaders in our schools, boards and professions. When we think of leadership, we are so apt to think of the formal leaders that sometimes we can forget about those informal leaders who we meet everyday.
I, for one, as a teacher who is connected to many inspiring educators on Twitter, have come to see the true power and influence of small l leaders. I spent hours each day (yes, even in the summer... more than ever!) reading their posts, clicking their links, re-tweeting their tweets and researching the information they share to try to incorporate the innovative ones into my own professional practice. Whether these educators are first year teachers or twenty year veterans, they have taken the initiative to share their professional practice and learning with me. In doing so, many of them have inspired me to try something new or reflect on my own practice and find ways to improve or incorporate new things. If that's not leadership in the profession, what is?! They have not have formal titles of leadership but they are leading from within.
This is a very exciting time in education with the continual development of all sorts of new and engaging educational technologies. As with anything new... any change... there is always some reluctance, resistance, fear, etc. As always, we need leaders who are willing and ready to embrace the journey and help pave the pathway for others, offering guidance and assistance on the journey. Perhaps the most #edtech savvy person in the school isn't an administrator but a rookie teacher. Small l leadership at its best! What a great opportunity to connect with admin who may not feel especially comfortable with technology and find ways together to help expand professional development and learning!
For educational technology to be effective, we must be open-minded. We must accept that it is a vast realm that can be overwhelming and reach out to others for support. Developing a great PLN (professional learning network) online is an ideal starting point; connecting with others who have already been on the tech journey for months or years will help, as it has helped me. My Twitter PLN has opened my eyes and mind to far more educational technology opportunities than I could have imagined. Slowly but surely I am learning about more and more tools and practices in #edtech which I will pass on to those who learn from me, as I have learned from so many before.
Leadership isn't about having all of the answers; it's about having the open mind to try new things and find solutions.
At our final "leadership" course, the keynote speaker was the President of Algonquin College, Kent MacDonald. My favourite part of his speech was when he shared a sentiment of Michael Dell saying (I'm taking liberties here and paraphrasing...) "Try never to be the smartest person in the room. And if you are, I suggest you invite smarter people … or find a different room."
A leader must always be willing to learn from others. If not, then why lead?
I leave you with two of my favourite quotations on leadership....
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
Just connected with a fellow educator on Twitter and shared some ideas about QR codes in the classroom. I decided that since I'd already typed it up once, might as well share it here as well for anyone who might be interested!
I have used QR codes in a few ways in the classroom, depending on subject/academic level.
In CHC2P, we use a lot of fill in blank notes to study from for the exam but finding answers in a textbook or in a word bank becomes dull... so I've done this a few different ways.
#1 - Put "numbers" on the blank spaces on the worksheet. They find the same number QR code and write down the answer. (Could end here for elementary students). OR, once students have scanned the code, a CLUE about the word (a photo, a phrase, or scrambled letters) appears. They have to SOLVE the clue to get the word that they are supposed to write in the blank space.
#2 - Put QR codes up with the actual words that go in the blanks but no numbers! They have to scan all the codes, write down all the words and then use online, textbook, deduction skills, etc. to decide which word goes in which sentence.
#3 - Question scavenger hunt.
a) QR codes around the room/school reveal questions (big ideas usually) and the students then have to go online to find "digital" answers. Or, for something different, QR code "answers" ... provide an answer and the student has to create a logical question that would be answered by my QR "answer". This helps students understand how to formulate good questions and will help them when trying to study for tests and answer test/exam questions.
b) Have a question sheet and send students around the school to find answers. Each QR code gives the answer to a question plus a clue about where in the school to find the next code.
#4 - QR code matching.
a) Some codes reveal photos and some reveal words; students have to match the QR codes together. Ex: "Code 14 and Code 2 go together because code 2 said deciduous and number 14 was a picture of a maple tree." This helps develop thinking/application skills.
b) Some codes reveal vocabulary and some reveal definitions - great for English class! Match the definition to the word and then have students create and tweet or blog (!) their own sentence using the word with the proper context!
#5 - QR code solving - can't take full credit for this (not a Math teacher!!) but a twist on something that a colleague does! The teacher puts up an equation on the Smartboard; QR codes in the room reveal 4 possible answers. Students have to scan all the codes and analyze them against the equation. Then, they decide which answer is correct and justify it! Or... have students solve equations and then "scan" to see if they are right.
#6 - Some of my colleagues put QR codes on the bottom of worksheets (or around the room), with links to information to supplement understanding. Ex: Having trouble with question 5? Scan QR code 5 to watch a video about the Battle of Dieppe (to help refresh their memory).
Jerry Blumengarten on Twitter is a great connection; he has a massive amount of resources on his website. I didn't get a chance to use it last year but plan to use his site this year to come up with even more ideas!
Here's his QR code page: http://cybraryman.com/qrcodes.html
Hope this is helpful to new QR code users out there!
On Tuesday, I participated in a virtual conference - a professional learning opportunity - called #Edmodocon. It was presented by the good people over at the #Edmodo app/website.
If you aren't familiar, Edmodo is a social learning platform for schools, often called the "Facebook" for schools because its format is similar. Edmodo has many advantages for many reasons. It's a great, safe place for teachers and students to connect; students can post questions, submit assignments, create projects, access notes, join discussion groups, and much more. Students need access codes to join a class so it's secure and safe. Check it out: www.edmodo.com
#Edmodocon provided educators with the chance to 'virtually' participate in a full day conference to learn more about the amazing ways to utilize Edmodo for classroom learning and success. More than 20,000 educators globally tuned in! There were several sessions throughout the day by presenters on a range of topics, including digital citizenship, project based learning, "flipping" the classroom, building leadership capacity and more!
Some of my take-aways from the sessions were:
1 - Using Edmodo for literature circles
2 - Ways to teach students how to be better digital citizens
3 - New apps (compatible with Edmodo) to try - ie: Explain Everything
4- Re-emphasis on what I already knew about how amazing project based learning is
5- Flipping the classroom
Patrick Fogarty's session: Access, Engagement, and Equality with Edmodo was one of my favourites. Loved his "30 second lesson" ideas, where students can create a video in "30 seconds" about a key concept. This is a great way to teach the skill of summarizing main ideas! You can build on this by having students string together a series of related '30 second lessons' too!
He also reminded us about the core philosophy of differentiated instruction - my biggest passion. He shared: "It's professional malpractice giving kids work they can't access in multiple ways". To meet the needs of all learners, we must give opportunities for choice!
Flipping the classroom/BYOD by Kate Baker and Liz Calderwood was another gem. The idea of classroom flipping is "a form of blended learning in which students watch lectures online and work on problem sets with other students in class. This approach allows teachers to spend more time interacting with students instead of lecturing. This is also known as backwards classroom, reverse instruction, flipping the classroom and reverse teaching."
I am already a huge proponent of BYOD and am very intrigued by flipping the classroom. It's definitely something I'd like to try, even for just a few lessons, to see how it works. The advantages are so very clear - that more time spent actually working out problems in class with teacher support will benefit the students. My fear, of course, is that the 'homework' of watching the lesson won't be done and then the in-class time would be wasted. Does anyone have suggestions for me or guidance about this? Would love your feedback because I am really keen on trying this if I can wrap my head around how to make it work! The ladies in this session were engaging and passionate; it was a great watch!
One of the more powerful moments of the day was Sheryl Sandberg's virtual address as part of the Lean In organization. She reminds us that we are "teaching future leaders". Her talk was about gender stereotypes in leadership and what we can do to promote leadership among young girls and women. Check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tk0Gq00LHMc
Thank you #Edmodo for a great conference! I already look forward to next year!
Who am I?
Hi! I'm Megan. 21st century learner and teacher. I am passionate about DI, assessment, student success and #edtech. My blog is where I share what is happening in my classes, my professional learning and sometimes things that are on the outer circle of education. Comments always welcome!