Student voice in the classroom
This semester, in my Grade 11 English class, I decided to try something new. I decided to incorporate a new non-fiction writing assignment in my course, in place of a traditional "reading journal". This non fiction writing was optional but I was very pleased when I logged into my Teacher Dashboard in Hapara to see that over 90% of the students to chose to do the personal writing assignment.
I was inspired by a few posts I had seen on the Humans of New York instagram page - in particular, ones of students talking about struggles in their lives. I started to wonder how much I know about my students. I also started to reflect on what I would share if I was stopped by a "HONY" type of project.
I knew that in order to get my students to buy in, I would have to open myself up also. I would have to model not only what I was looking for, but also some vulnerability in what I was sharing if I wanted them to share true feelings and emotions with me.
So last week I walked into class ready to present my brand new lesson.
I polled the class to see who had heard of HONY. Not many. But many had heard of something similar, our school's own "Humans Of" page. I used that as my kick off to introduce their task.
"When people find out that I'm a teacher, they always want to know what it is like to be on the “other” side of the classroom… people always want to know what the hardest part about teaching is. It's not all the prep or the marking... although those are the most time consuming. And, most days, it's not even the behaviour issues or the disrespect, as frustrating as those are. Usually it's the battle to make a difference. To reach every kid. When kids are little, they are usually so excited about school and so open about their feelings and their struggles. They want to share their goals and dreams with you and they will tell you about their defeats and disappointments. By the time they get to me, in high school, that has often changed. They all have their own unique past life and school experiences which influence them, who they are and ultimately, how they are in my class. I have 75 minutes a day for 18 weeks to try to make an impact on them. To teach them not only curriculum - fundamentals of English or History or Civics, but to hopefully make a positive difference in their lives… one that they will carry with them further than their memory of metaphors and conscription and electoral reform. And it's not easy to reach them all. There are so many other factors at play - stress, depression, anxiety, poverty, hunger, gender and sexuality issues, self esteem, negative school experiences, bullying… to name a few - that shape who they are and what they are feeling. But I only know what I observe or what they choose to share with me. Usually there is so much more beneath the surface. And sometimes those stories are the saddest of all. The stories that I’ll never know. So that's the hardest part of teaching: the helplessness you feel and the tears you shed when you so desperately want to reach every single student but know that sometimes you just can't because it's not always about you... it's about them... and you need to respect that too."
That was a big share. A big vulnerability for me to lay that one out to them.
I then shared their assignment:
Imagine you were stopped by a “Humans Of” photographer. You can choose anything to share with him/her. It should be something that you think ‘defines’ you as a person - a life experience (positive or negative), a passion/goal, a memorable moment. It should be about 450-500 words. Use the Humans of New York social media pages (http://www.humansofnewyork.com) (and my example) as a guide.
Next, answer the question: Who am I? The first part should be background information about you (who you are, where you are from, where you have lived, your family, your hobbies, etc). Choose any quote that “speaks” to you. It can be from song lyrics or a poem or a famous “saying”. The second well developed paragraph of this assignment should about how this quote represents you or your life (or what you want to be or want from life).
And I waited patiently for the week to pass until they submitted the assignments to me.
I had no idea whether this was going to be a huge success or a huge failure.
The night that the assignments were due, I sat at my computer and watched the clock click to 7:30pm then I went into their folders and started reading. I stayed up until well after 1:00am reading all of these amazing reflections. Some were hilarious, some were so sad that they made me cry, and some inspired me.
But most importantly, they gave me insight into the students I was teaching. I got to know something about each and every one of them that I might not have known otherwise. I can't control how much they choose to share - perhaps some of the students who shared the funny ones have some deep pain that they chose not to share with me.... and that is okay. What is important that I gave my students the opportunity to share with me whatever they felt comfortable sharing and in turn, it offered me a chance to understand them better.
I am also glad that I chose to wait until a few months into the semester; while I understand that there is merit to knowing information about your students "right out of the gate", I think that my choice to wait a few months gave my students a chance to get to know me and hopefully feel comfortable sharing some things that they might not have otherwise shared, back in early September.
"No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship."
"Going Google with Megan"
I'm excited to have the opportunity to lead some professional development on Google Apps for Education at my school in the next few weeks.
Back in early March, I presented on Hangouts and Scripts at our Ottawa Catholic School Board IT conference - SummIT X. As someone who is passionate about Google, it was lots of fun to present on the advantages of using GAFE! If you're interested in my sessions, check them out here:
Since Windows XP is no longer being supported by Microsoft next year, our focus is really on using GAFE, which our board has been using for a few years now. In order to help my colleagues make the transition, I am offering some brief sessions. I will be doing my best to Hangout on Air for most sessions so keep your eyes peeled for later posts!
Google “Docs” 101 - Beginner Session (April 24)
Are you interested in learning how to log in to Google docs to create documents, make folders, upload your files from your USB “to the cloud” (on Google!) and share and edit documents with anyone in the world? Want your students to submit their work online and you can see exactly what time it was submitted and when it was last edited and by whom? Want to create a document that several people can work on at once, and be able to see exactly WHO typed what part of the document? Join us for this session all about how to get started with Google Docs!
Google Forms 101 - Beginner (May 15)
Are you familiar with how to log into your Google drive? Are you comfortable using Google docs but want to learn more? Do you want to learn about how to make surveys and even quizzes using Google forms? These are a great tool for formative assessment - and they are quick and easy!!
Google Hangouts 101 - Beginner (May 29)
Have you heard of Skype? Are you interested in having the ability to video conference with anyone across the world, for free? You can not only video call together but you can work on shared documents (from Google docs) WITHIN the call and work together! You can also use this to call other classes or do PD/meetings from home!
Simplify your life with Google! - Intermediate (June 5)
Are you feeling comfortable with the basics of Google? Do you want to find some cool tools (apps/extensions/scripts) that will make your life EASIER?! Join this session to learn about tips and tricks that will save you time!! You’ll learn how to clear a page of ads, screencast, block ads on YouTube videos, automatically “mark” formative assessment quizzes and more!
Say what? All about perceptions...
Yesterday was the second part of my teacher performance appraisal (TPA) - some of you probably call these teacher evaluations. Ours is a multi step process: an initial meeting to discuss objectives/criteria and sharing session, in-class observation and follow up session.
For my TPA, I asked my vice-principal to come and observe two of my classes - my Grade 10 Applied History class and my Grade 9 Academic English class, as these classes have very different dynamics. My Grade 10 History class is a very energetic group. Sometimes we struggle with focus, attention and staying on task. This is all a part of the reality of teaching and so I didn't shy away from having this class as one of my 'observation' classes.
It got me thinking of something that Jennie Magiera said at the GAFE conference this week (Trust me... she said it better - she's way more witty than I am... but you'll get the idea). She said that she used to be so excited and proud when the principal would walk by her class and all the students were completing silent, working away in their rows with their books. Score one for the teacher being in total control! Woo hoo! And yet, she said that same thought now makes her shudder! The idea of someone walking by her class and seeing rows of children in complete silence is the exact opposite of what she wants to represent her as a teacher! And I feel the same way!
Why is it that we still have this outdated, archaic idea that a quiet classroom is always a better classroom? Sure, we don't want kids swinging from the ceilings, throwing things across the room and yelling obscenities! But, what about "productive" noise? Is it better to have rows of silent students pretending to do worksheets or is it better to have lots of noise coming from students who are learning?
Here's a little clip of my students engaging in "productive noise". Instead of doing "comprehension questions", we do "learning stations".
What does this have to do with my performance appraisal, you ask? I told my students that the vice-principal was going to be dropping in to observe the class; I didn't elaborate because I didn't want the students to act differently (better or worse!) based on his reason for being with us. I just wanted them to not be surprised when he showed up. I explained to them that I welcome admin to come visit us anytime to see the cool things that we are learning!
Before class started, a student approached me and said: "My brother made a bet with me that you are going to act differently today because the VP is here". What?! - I thought! I asked her to explain that to me. She said that they thought that I would be "more traditional" because admin was coming to my class! I assured them I would be doing nothing differently than I normally did!
At the end of the day, I asked him... so, did I act differently?
Well, PHEW! I would hate to think that because admin comes into my room, I go from energetic, bouncy, joking, smiling, modern connection making, team work loving teacher to some kind of robot... some "non tolerant" teacher! Strict? I don't need to be "strict" by the definition they go by... my students know my expectations! They know that my classroom runs on respect and relationships! I don't need to yell or tell them all to be SILENT; they know when to listen (usually! They are STILL kids - they have their moments!) and when to get learning! I have MY style that works for me and my students! It's not about what other people do or don't do... it's not a competition or a comparison! I know what is going on inside my four walls and I adapt my teaching and learning according to my class dynamic! I wouldn't change just for the sake of perception! We are who are! (Sorry, didn't mean to make a Ke$ha reference.... #edufail).
But I have to wonder... why did they think that I would change? Is my way of doing things so 'uncommon' and 'untraditional' that they think what I am doing is something I need to cover up or hide from the higher powers? Where do our students get the messaging about what teaching and learning looks like? Do they think there is only one style that is okay? Do they think that people perceive noise and movement as bad? And on that last question... are they right?
This was a very interesting experience for me; not only from an evaluation standpoint but because of what it taught me about my students' perceptions and certainly, it re-affirmed for me, that many of them enjoy the way I do things.
(Photo courtesy of Edutopia.Org via Lisa Dabbs. No copyright infrigement intended.)
It's been a while
When I sat down to type this blog post tonight, I was scared to check when I posted last... because it feels like it's been forever. It's just so busy... teaching, in general. And then add in the committees, groups, extra courses, workshops and commitments, and time gets away from you!
It's been a great few weeks, though. Crazy busy... but great!
I currently have a teacher candidate (read: 'student teacher') with me from the University of Ottawa. I'm really enjoying this time around! She's very conscientious, open-minded and eager to do her best. I really feel lucky to have the chance to mentor her because I feel that she's going to be a great teacher once she's completed the program. It's really a pleasure to work with someone so committed to excellence... for herself and for our students. It's hard to give up control of our classes sometimes; we never know how it will go or how the kids will respond and we all have "our ways" of doing things. Luckily for me, my teacher candidate is very adept at what she does and has far exceeded my expectations in so many ways! It will certainly be a loss for the class when she returns to the university!
I am preparing for a presentation tomorrow for various principals in our board to share with them my alternative learning space! (I wanted to post a pic in this entry but somehow I must have deleted it from my photo accidentally! I will have to update this entry tomorrow!) I am really excited to show them the space that we have created and all the excellent student produced work on the walls!
On Sunday, I completed my Google Apps for Education certification! I am officially GAFE qualified! It was a lot of work reading through the modules and completing the exams for qualification but I feel great that I've done it! Couldn't have done it without my #edu buddy Michelle Cordy, though! I love co-learning!
This year I am part of both my School Improvement Planning Team and my union's (OECTA) professional development (PD) committee. Both of these meetings happened this afternoon... so it's been a crazy day... and it's only Monday! I am really excited about both of these opportunities, especially because as part of the PD committee, we are looking at ways to offer more PD in the areas of #edtech and to offer a two pronge approach - entry level and more advanced PD.
In my #ENG1D class (blog: valoiseng1d.blogspot.ca), we are wrapping up the Hunger Games. Students have been blogging about their critical thinking, reflection and application questions throughout. Today, was our final consolidation activity, in which students shared student made and led games to help their peers consolidate learning. The fun part of this is that these weren't traditional "fact based" games; students were tasked with coming up with ways to allow their peers to show not only knowledge and understanding, but also thinking, communication and application (connection) skills! Students created games such as charades, pictionary, trivia, puzzle matching games etc. In many of the games, in order to get the "full points", students had to explain the significance or thematic meaning of whatever they were drawing, acting out, or answering. I think it was a great success!
Here's some links so you can judge for youself!
Minute to Win It:
And, as if life weren't busy enough, now I'm off to moderate #cdnedchat! :)
Hope everyone is doing well!
To my PLN… thank you.
As Connected Educators month wrapped up, I’ve taken some time to reflect on my journey in “connectedness”.
I turned to Twitter by happen stance a few years ago but was never very active online. I lurked, I posted a bit then abandoned it for weeks and months at a time. Finally, just over a year ago, I came back. I don’t even really remember the circumstances surrounding it but I decided to check out what was out there. It probably had something to do with the fact that I was grappling with who I was as an educator and where to go next. I'm a true Type A… perfectionist to a fault… and in many ways, I had begun to feel worn out and jaded. I didn't want to be THAT person. I wanted to learn more and do more. I was getting frustrated by negative comments about change and innovation. I wanted more than basic professional development workshops on subjects/areas that I felt comfortable in. I didn’t know what else was “out there” but I figured there must be more… and I wanted to find it.
And then Twitter opened my eyes. I started following “ed tech” gurus and learning about neat tools to try. I started using some of these tools in my classroom and experimented with them as a means of learning. I started to read and follow tweets from people who shared my views and beliefs and the passion that I once had and wanted to have back. I read thoughts that could have been my own… and then realized it had been retweeted and/or favourited countless times and I knew I wasn’t alone. I stumbled upon a new “chat”... Canadian Ed Chat (#cdnedchat). I had never participated in a Twitter chat. A month or so later, Michael Quinn, one of the co-founders, invited me to help guest moderate a chat on Differentiated Instruction when I tweeted to tell him it was a passion of mine. I was terrified. I was worried that everyone would think I wasn’t good enough, well versed enough, tech savvy enough. I felt like a fraud. I was new to this online realm. What could I possibly have to offer? I will be so much less than everyone else, won’t I?
And then I met the #cdnedchat team and they were amazing. They were welcoming and open minded and great sources of information, learning and support. And I realized, we’re all on this journey and we all had to start sometime and somewhere. What was most important then, was that I wanted to be better and learn more and integrate innovative teaching tools and strategies into my practice. Not surprisingly, everyone was there to support and help!
I was blessed to continue my involvement in #cdnedchat, having been asked to join on the moderation team full time. Participating in these weekly chats fuelled my drive to keep learning as much as I could about new educational technologies and educational initiatives. It became a passion. I started learning more and more about things that I knew some, little or nothing about! Online literature circles, Google Hangouts, blogging, Google Apps for Education, digital portfolios, 1:1 programs, QR codes, Flipping the Classroom, project based learning…. the list goes on and on. And the more I learned, the more my passion returned. Rather than feeling overwhelmed with how much was out there and how little I knew, I began to feel invigorated that there was so much potential and that all I had to do was learn about it and make it happen! I would look forward to Google Hangouts with the team because I felt I had found people who were similar to me. I’ve called Dana Ariss my “edu soul sister” on more than one occasion because we see so many things from the same perspective and are passionate about so many of the same things.
I began to participate in more Twitter chats and reach out to #edtech leaders on Twitter to share and gather ideas and feedback. I became inspired by the amazing Angela Maiers and her “You Matter” campaign. It changed the way that I viewed my role as a teacher and how I began my school year (2013-2014) with my students. Instead of focusing on rules, I chose to focus on relationships. I am seeing a huge difference already.
I also spent more time learning about and integrating technology into my practice. I launched my professional website and started sharing my research and presentations, and even included a blog… this blog… as a part of it. I wanted to start sharing all the neat things that my students were capable of doing! I started using more #edtech tools such as Edmodo, Pinterest, AudioBoo, Google Drive (docs/forms), and more recently, this school year, blogs (Blogger), Remind 101, Socrative, QR codes, ExplainEverything and Geddit. (This led the way to using innovative teaching strategies like Genius Time and project based learning and the creation of my alternative learning space this year).
The ideas became endless. My mind would be racing after a Twitter chat and I could hardly sleep, thinking of all the great ideas I had heard - things I had never even thought of before - and how I could make these work for my students! And the passion began to multiply. I would bounce ideas off of educators trying the same things or wanting to. And I’d get feedback and advice from people who had been long doing the initiatives and using the tools and strategies that I was just taking on. And I teamed up with amazing mentors, like Michelle Cordy, who pushed me to make opportunities to better myself as an educator- to steer my own ship and find my own niche - and inspired me to do things that challenge me and scare me because I can and what do I have to lose? (And here I am, one exam away from having attained Google Apps for Education Certified Trainer - Qualified Individual status! I couldn’t have imagined this 2 years ago!)
And so, as we wrap up connected educator’s month, I am thankful that I faced roadblocks, frustrations and feelings of being jaded and alone because it forced me to make a decision; make a change or stay the same. I chose change. It’s scary, terrifying, exciting and inspiring all at once. It needed to happen and I’m glad it did. I’m glad I felt the push to look further to find something to challenge me to be better than I was. Something to make me better for myself, and thereby, for my students… because isn’t that what it’s all about? Being the best version of yourself?
A few of the key people that I have learned the most from are included in this post but there are many more who have impacted my journey…. some with one post that stood out to me and some, who with their every post inspire me, daily. Some of these people do not follow me and will never see this blog post. Some will. I am okay with both of those facts.
I just want to say thanks. Thanks to the PLN for helping to open my eyes to the amazing world that is out there. Thank you for showing me the endless possibilities in education. Thank you for reminding me why I have never wanted to do anything other than teach. Thank you for showing me ways to reinvigorate the passion that has never died inside of me. Thank you for being people that I learn from and thank you for inspiring me to be the best that I can be.
This past week, in CHC2P, we started with Genius Hour! If you're not familiar with Genius Hour (or 20% time), check this out: http://www.geniushour.com/
"Genius hour is a movement that allows students to explore their own passions and encourages creativity in the classroom. It provides students a choice in what they learn during a set period of time during school. It’s not easy to determine where the idea was originally created, but there are at least two events that have impacted genius hour". The concept originated with Google: they gave employees 60 minutes per week to work on any project they wanted. The result? An increase in creativity and productivity! Google states that over 50% of Google products were created during this "20%" time.
In our class, there will be some minor adaptations.
a) Since I only teach my students one class per day, we cannot sacrifice a full 75 minutes (one class) per week. We can, however, use 30 minutes of one class period per week to explore new ideas.
b) Since I teach high school (subject specific), we must focus on History. That said, they are free to research, create, build, discover anything they want related to Canadian history!
As you can see from the photo above, our first "Genius Time" session was a success. I promise that this photo was not staged! Students were finding websites, videos, pictures, etc. about all sorts of neat things related to Canadian History using our school set of iPads!
I really like Genius Time for a few reasons:
1. In keeping with our school board priority of innovation and creativity, Genius Time allows students to explore their areas of interest and come up with creative ways to share their learning. Talk about active and authentic learning!
2. It ties into the Ontario School Effectiveness Framework; it provides opportunity for student voice, classroom leadership and assessment as and for learning, along with traditional teaching and learning opportunities. It allows students to share their learning, take initiative and responsibility for their own learning and interests and the skills to share this learning with their peers.
3. It supports the underlying principles of Differentiated Instruction and Growing Success. What better way to differentiate by needs, interests, readiness and learning style than to allow students to choose all of the above?! Genius Time allows students to work at their own pace, with content that is appropriate to their learning level/ability and present/share in a way that represents their learning styles.
I really look forward to seeing how Genius Time works over the course of the semester in my class!
Do you have insight to share about YOUR Genius Time? Drop me a comment! I'd love to hear about it!
Adventures in Education!
Last week, we were very successful in getting set up on all sorts of educational technology! In my CHC2P class, we set up our Twitter accounts. Already, we have taken pictures of in class work and shared it via Twitter. Next week, once we begin WWI, we will be tweeting responses to discussion questions, links to cool and informative videos and websites that we find online!
In ENG1D, we set up our school emails (Gmails) and our blogs and have already worked our way through 2 blog posts related to the short stories we were reading! After creating a first blog on their own, we co-constructed criteria about what makes a "good blog" in class and how we can comment effectively on blog posts! https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BUTmzZbIMAA4GwA.jpg How did we do?!
I'll link to different blogs from time to time but here's Clare's blog to start... I think she's done a great job so far: http://clareeng1d.blogspot.ca/ With a few blogs complete, we are going to start sharing insight and feedback with each other in the next few days. To facilitate blogging, I have reserved the school set of iPads once per week so that we can maintain our blogs and share comments. At other times, students are welcome to BYOD (bring their own device) to class as well!
In CHC2DA (my ESL history class), we used QR codes in the classroom to help us learn new terms for our study notes. We also add to our "word wall" each day with new vocabulary that we are unfamiliar with! We also use Edmodo!
We're off to a great start and having lots of fun so far!
"5x5: Thought leaders"
I feel very privileged to have been asked to participate in a "thought leaders" 5 question session, organized by Michelle Cordy (@cordym) inspired by this piece: http://www.esparklearning.com/ed-tech/. Michelle realized that there were no #edtech women included in the "thought leaders" category and sought out women who were active in the #edtech community to share their thoughts.
I am so honoured to be included in the first edition of 5x5: Thought Leaders.
Please check out Michelle's "thought leader" Q&A here: http://hacktheclassroom.ca/2013/09/5x5-5-thought-leaders-5-questions-5-answers/
Welcome Back parents!
I thought I'd share a copy of one of the letters that I sent home to parents of my classes this year. Yes, I teach high school! I still think it's important to send home letters to touch base with parents so that they know what is happening and what my plans are!
Welcome back! As we end this first week of the new school year, I wanted to take the opportunity to tell you that it’s been my pleasure getting the opportunity to meet and begin to get to know your son/daughter. I am confident that we are going to have a great semester!
I feel that parent-teacher communication is exceptionally important to each child’s success and as such, for each class, I have created a separate welcome letter to introduce you to me and some key aspects of the course your child will be taking with me. I look forward to working with you, as a team, to help your child achieve his/her goals this year!
Your child’s Grade 10 Applied History class is period 1. They are also my homeroom class. Just a few reminders: student fees and course outlines should be submitted as soon as possible. All students have been assigned a locker to store personal belongings during the school day.
I am very active in professional learning and development related to the use of educational technology and am passionate about its uses to enhance learning! As such, all of my classes are encouraged to BYOD (bring your own device)! Many of your children own/have access to devices that can access the internet and I encourage them to bring these to class daily if possible. We have already, and continue, to discuss appropriate use of technology in class/creating a positive “digital footprint” and I am confident that together we can harness these tools as excellent supports to education and learning!
In CHC2P this year, students will not only be learning about history (my passion!) but they will also develop 21st century learning skills. Some of the technology we will be trying may include blogging, digital portfolios, Youtube videos, Edmodo, Prezis, using Twitter and Instagram – all to engage students and document student learning. The internet will serve as an invaluable research tool for this class! Students will create student accounts, using their “OCSB student” emails, keeping their personal accounts (if they have one) separate from class ones.
The majority of the work will be done in class; studying for tests/quizzes will be the students’ responsibility outside of class hours and some major assignments may require completion at home (but students will be given class time to work on these). To help students remember these key dates, I have subscribed to an educator service called “Remind 101”. It’s a safe and secure one-way text messaging reminder service for teachers to parents and students. I have attached the information sheet to this letter. If you have a cell phone and would like to be subscribed, please follow the instructions on the following sheet of paper.
If you would like to follow along with what we are working on in class, I will be posting updates to my professional blog, which is located in the “blog” section of www.meganvalois.com. Once our accounts (Twitter/Blog etc.) are set up, we will let you know the links to those so you can follow along with us!
Again, I look forward to a great year! If you have any questions or want to touch base with me, I can be reached at the school: ***************. Please note extra help is always available, by appointment, at lunch.
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."
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!