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Posts Tagged ‘Assessments’

Yesterday we had a full day PD where Spence Rogers from PEAK came and did a workshop. This is not his first time at our school and many of our teachers have been flown to his week long conference out in Colorado. But it was all new to me. A post on all the great stuff I liked and other thoughts that made me ponder to come but I wanted to offer a quick reflection on “safety.”

PEAK has the “six keys” model and one of them is safety – you can provide, break or use the safety key in the classroom by doing certain things. I thought a lot about how true and accurate my formative assessments are or could be based on the safety my students feel in my classroom.

I tried the following today. We are studying trig identities (simplifying, factoring and verifying) and students are struggling but getting there. I used the following phrasing

Raise your hand if you see the next step. I will not call on you if you raise your hand.

Ok, hands down. Please raise your hand if you’d like to explain what you notice.

It worked really great. A lot of students felt safe to raise their hands and let me know they see something (depending on the phrasing sometimes I asked raise your hand if you’re thinking of something that MIGHT work, etc.) but are not ready to share it to the class.

I have also been using thumb signals to determine if we need more examples, ready for individual practice, or how to proceed within the lecture. Today I asked them to close their eyes (and to actually do so out of respect for their classmates) and show me their thumbs. I saw a lot more thumbs down today than I have yet.

I am really excited for the feedback my students are giving me and am thrilled that I am learning how to create an environment that protects their safety and allows them to tell me what they need in many different ways. I keep reading articles, blog posts and asking my coworkers how they communicate with the whole group and I’m eager to hear more ways.

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Remember that class that was all failing? They were giving me a hard time (to put it mildly), they were down and discouraged… well half of them got A’s on the last test and almost everyone passed!

I am so proud of them and so excited that they are working harder and are going to see the benefit of hard work when they get their tests back on Monday.

Unfortunately my other period that was doing very well all tanked the exam so I need to take a lot at what is going on there but for this moment I am going to make a big effort to congratulate and encourage 5th period to take pride in themselves and their hard work. Yay them!

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I’ve already had a bone to pick with the system but DAMN do I have a bone to pick with the system and it has to do with assessment (shocker). Friday was supposed to be quiz day for both Mr. M’s seniors and my juniors but due to electrical issues we closed (oh the irony as we are an Electrical & Tech vo school). We decided to give the quiz on Monday but allow students 10-15 minutes individual and/or class review time.

Let me explain what happened during the seniors quiz time. Mr. M reviewed EVERYTHING that would be on the quiz and completed quiz-like problems on the board. Then students requested we leave all the worked out problems, procedures and solutions on the board to help with the quiz, and so we did! Now I was already balking at that, how is this testing their understanding of hourly and overtime wage if they’re just switching out numbers left on the board?  However I was asking the wrong question since the information on the board was barely used. Students were raising their hands left and right and demanding procedural help as well as answers from me and Mr. M.  And let me tell you, they were so pissed when I refused to tell them how to do the problems. I mean, it’s a quiz – right?! As I sat back I watched Mr. M go around and help each student as if it were homework, pointing out the important information then just telling the student what to do; Also every student asked at the end of each problem, “Is this right?”

I was completely dumbfounded at the lack of “test etiquette” these kids showed. When I talked to Mr. M he explained to me that if he didn’t help these kids would fail and there is no point in failing these kids because at the end of the year the principal is going to come up to him and ask, “What can we do to pass them?” He also argued that those failing students get discouraged and disruptive since they usually adopt the attitude, “What’s the point I’m failing anyway.”

Still I’m concerned this is all wrong. If quiz grades don’t matter or reflect meaningful information, why give them at all? Is there a better way to asses learning, maybe in school projects? What is the point of all this if it’s not even vaguely accurate?!

Both the juniors and the seniors have severe learned helplessness and I keep going back to this idea of the gradual release of responsiblity that I wrote about before. For the seniors I think my goal needs to be more life-centered rather than school-centered.  I need to encourage individual thinking and problem-solving skills to help them become successful humans in the world not better test takers because for many this will be their last year in a school environment.

But most importantly I think this whole idea of a “quiz” needs to be scratched. If the information gathered is bogus, inaccurate and at the end not even used, why do it at all? And now more importantly, what can I do better instead?

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