Final Assessment Reflection

Final Assessment Reflection

Prepare yourself this is a long one….

Over this semester and this field experience I can’t believe the change in my own philosophy in a short amount of time. I was a strong believer that students should be responsible for their own work and that if they don’t hand it in then the student should get a zero. Through this class and my fieldwork, I have realized that students shouldn’t be graded on behaviors but the actual work they hand in. I do believe though that there are some cases where zeros have to be given. In one class I taught during my pre-internship I was talking with the teacher about the little quizzes she hands out and what happens if a student misses the quiz. She allows students to come in during lunch or during their homework period but the student has to make the arrangements themselves. They literally have until the end of the year to make up quizzes that they missed however, there are students she said who never take advantage of these opportunities and, unfortunately, get a zero in the end. I think that in these circumstances zeros have to be given out. If a student doesn’t want to take the help that a teacher is giving, there is only so much a teacher can do to help a student.

Along with zeros, I don’t agree with giving late marks. Why would students hand in an assignment if they know so much is being taken off because it’s late. I don’t think teachers should be chasing down students who haven’t handed in assignments, but if a student hands something in a couple days late, I’ll accept it. I saw this interesting post on Pinterest where a teacher had a “late” binder, where each student had a piece of paper in it and if they didn’t hand in their assignment on time they would have to fill in what assignment was late, why it was late and when it is expected to be finished. I think this beneficial because it allows a teacher to see who is handing in assignments late and if you have a repeat offender, it can give you an insight of what’s going on. Maybe they need more one on one time, maybe they need help getting organized or something else but this way a teacher might be able to help.

I also believe that we should move away from being a grades driven society. In this article, this teacher does not assign grades to student work until the very end when he absolutely has to. But the part that really got to me was the quote “Why do Eng­lish teach­ers get rough drafts but math teach­ers never al­low stu­dents to have rough drafts”. Why do we grade students on sometimes their first attempt in math? In my pre-internship, I was able to witness a different set up for a math class that doesn’t focus on the first try but instead the last.

In the Workplace and Apprenticeship 10 class (WA 10) I was in the students had to take control of their own learning. This course was split into 7 mini units and each unit had what they called the essentials, which was the basic skills that every student would need to know to pass the course. They would show their knowledge through completing workbooks (usually 4 or 5 per unit), but if the student had any corrections they had to fix them before they would be counted. After they had completed all the booklets and fixed any corrections that they might have had, they would do a check-in, which was 10 multiple choice questions. If the student got 7 or higher on this check in they automatically received 55% on this unit. It wouldn’t matter how many corrections they had to do, how many times they had to write the check in or what score they got on the check in (as long as they got at least 7) they would receive at least 55%. There was another task for the student to do, so the high achiever could improve their grades even more through applications, a test and/or a unit project.

This setup provides equitable assessment and evaluation for students. It allows students to work at their own pace and take control of their own learning. It allows them to complete as much as they are capable of and for some students, this would just be completing the essentials every unit. If a student is struggling there is plenty of in-class time to finish the minimum work required and for students who move quickly through work, the booklets are printed off well in advance that they don’t have to wait for the teacher to give instructions.

Giving students the ability to show their learning in a variety of ways (booklets, test, applications or project) allows teachers to get a better understanding of actually what the student knows. As well I love the fact that the students have fixed their corrections on their essentials and they are given the option to fix them on their applications. Not every student will be able to understand the concepts the day you teach them but every student will be able to learn them eventually. I honestly could see myself using this format in my classroom, I love how it differentiates for students and students have to take control of their learning. At the beginning of each unit every student is given a student contract, so from the beginning, they know what is expected of them and they have to decide how much effort and time they want to spend. If I could change anything I might consider doing a variety of activities for the essentials instead of booklets every time. As well to do the project the students must do the applications and test but I would like to try allowing students to pick or choose which tasks they would do after the essentials. The last week I got to do a hands-on activity with my student for a section of the unit which I think went over really well, so I would like to try at least on hands-on activity for every unit. I believe that my assessment and evaluation philosophy fell closely in align with my practices, but I also believe that my field experience helped define it even more.

To sum it all up 3 key learnings that I took away from ECS 410 and my field experience are:

1. Formative feedback is essential but it can be overlooked when a grade is assigned. We live in a grade-driven society, some students don’t care about what they learned as long as they memorized it long enough to pass a test or an assignment. If we want to move away from the importance of grades and to the importance of student learning we have to start giving more formative feedback to help the students

2. Zeros and late marks aren’t teaching responsibility. I still believe in some cases that zeros might have to be given but before it gets there a teacher should give multiple opportunities to help them (make up tests, lunch hour work periods, etc.)

3. Allowing students to show their learning in multiple ways is the right way to go. Not every student is the same so not every student will be able to express their learning the same way, so why do we force everyone to write tests? If given a variety of ways to show their knowledge will increase student engagement as help students learn essentials skills.

So this is it, my journey through pre-internship. What I learned, what I liked and what I plan on doing. Internship is coming fast and I can’t wait 🙂

The Last Class

The Last Class

A couple weeks ago we had our last assessment class, I know I should have blogged sooner but time got away from me and I didn’t really know what to write. However during my pre-internship I am learning about a couple of assessment practices that was mentioned in our final class.

At my school I am teaching Work Place and Apprenticeship 10 and they have a really unique set up for this class. This class is split up into the 7 chapters from the text book, each chapter each student gets a contract of what needs to be done. The first section, which is called the essentials, is a series of workbooks (4 or 5 usually) that have basic skills that the students need to know. After a workbook has been completed they get graded almost automatically and handed back if there is any mistakes. The students have to complete each book and correct their mistakes before they can move on. Once this has been completed the students are given a check in, which is 10 multiple choice questions, if the students get more than 7 right they get a 55% in this chapter. The students are than given the opportunity to complete extra work to get higher grades like a chapter test, a project and an application workbook which requires the students to think deeper.

This set up allows students to work at their own pace and helps students who may be struggling learn the basics. I really like this set up because not everyone is forced to write a test that is worth a huge chunk of their grade, there are many people who struggle with tests so this options allows them show their learning through a variety of ways. As well this gives students a ton of formative feedback, the workbooks are never corrected to give a grade but corrected to show the students what they did right and they need to work on. You can see if a majority of students are struggling with a specific question so than you can address that issue before it comes to the test (if they write it)

I have only been in the classroom for just over a week but I feel like I have learned so much about my own assessment philosophy.  Re-looking at some of the papers we got on our last day this one quote really stuck out to me.

“When we give students the impression that we value the right answer more than critical thinking, we may drive them to take short cuts and cheat.” – Cris Tovani

This quote is so true, when we assign grades to assignment the student know longer care whether they actually learn anything but whether or not they were able to get a good enough grade. Moving away from giving grades and docking marks because of behaviours helps students realize that the importance is their own learning journey and whether or not they enjoyed it.

Rubrics and No-zeros

Rubrics and No-zeros

In this weeks class I took away three important ideas. Continuing on from last week, we are still working on the rubric for our unit plans. I like rubrics and I think they are very beneficial for students (they can see exactly what is wanted) but man, they are a pain in the butt to create. You think you’ve figured it out so you put it to the side and then you come back to and it’s still not finished. When you build rubrics you have to be very specific but also measurable. The problem that arose during class was for the I Can statements and difference between consistently, generally and occasional. I think there is a different between these words but how do you measure it. Is consistently 4/5, generally 3/5 and occasionally 2/5? But what if someone doesn’t have 5 I Can Statements how does it work for them? I found this nifty website about the pros and cons of using rubrics in the classroom. I just want to highlight some interesting points from it that I didn’t think of until reading it. Sometimes students learn more from rubrics than from a grade, like what were the teachers expectation. Another one is that it allows the students to see their strengths and weaknesses and helps them improve in the areas they need. A teacher can adapt/modify rubrics to fit the individual needs of students and when it is shared with the students it can be motivational. I agree that these are all benefits of rubrics but there was con that I had to question. They say a con is that students may ask for rubrics for all assignments, because students like to know what is expected and how to achieve high marks. I’m not sure this is con because don’t you want your students to do their best?

The last thing we did this week was to discuss in our staff groups was whether or not our school would use no-zeros. This worked out perfectly because we had to do some research for case studies and one was about no-zeros. Honestly, if you would have asked me a couple years ago I would have said something along the line of “that’s outrageous you have to give zeros to students who don’t hand in work, no job will allow students to be late with work. We’re setting them up for failure.” Back to the present, I can now see the benefits for not giving zeros. I think there is miscommunications as to why a school would implement this. From my own research and the article we read in class it seems that people think that when schools use the no-zero policy that it allows students to just not do the work but that’s not the case. Most schools that use a no-zero policy have some sort of plan set up for when students don’t hand in their work. It could like the Incomplete Assignment Form from the article or it could be simply setting up extra work periods (lunch hours, study hall, after school etc.) for the students to go and do homework.

The Problem with Penalties by Myron Dueck gives reasons has to why a “penalty” doesn’t work. The one reason that really made me think was about care, so the “penalty” has to mean something to the students. Unfortunately some students would rather take a zero instead of doing any work. With the no-zero policy it makes the student take responsibility for their work and actually do it. Some people would argue that allowing students to hand in work late doesn’t teach them to be responsible, when they have a job they can’t hand in work late. But I read an counter argument on a blog or article, I can’t remember exactly what it was, but basically it said that employer can’t take a “pay cut” or “zero” just because they don’t want to do the work, so why should we allow students to? What our group and I really liked was the Incomplete Assignment Form that was used in the article (like I said above; we really like it). It basically was form that the student filled out if they didn’t hand in an assignment on time. It asks reason for missing the due date, when they expect it be completed and if they needed support to complete it. I think this is a really interesting way because it helps the teacher see what needs to be done to help the student.

I don’t think I would give zeros in my class unless it was an ABSOLUTE last resort. I do think that students need to see consequences for actions but a zero can really hurt their grade. I would rather try to help and support the student instead of just giving them a zero. What is your opinion on no-zeros?

Building Rubrics and Other Fun Things

Building Rubrics and Other Fun Things

So first of all we started the class with this presentation by Cory Antonini  who went on and explained this fantastic, wonderful and creative (I could go on and on) resource for teachers. This website has everything all combined for a lesson plan. Outcome, indicators, different ways of assessment, ability to create your own rubric and so much more.  Basically it is everything which is so cool for teachers to use and from what it sounds like is that he is improving it even more during the summer. So definitely check it out in the future.

He continues to talk about rubric development and how he uses it in the classroom, which I think is really interesting. For the rubric there is four different levels: established, meeting, progressing and beginning. What he wants is everyone to be at the meeting level, so he decides what it means to be meeting and then leaves everything other box on the rubric blank. As students are working on their projects he meets up with them everyday and gives the students feedback by writing in the rubric where he thinks the students are at for the day. Each day he uses a different coloured pen so he can see himself how the students are progressing.

This.

THIS!!

Why has no one every mentioned this before. I think this is such a smart way for teachers to give both summative and formative assessment for students. During the assignment you are able to help students improve their work and when you are ready to “grade” the assignment you already know where they stand. Genius! I can not describe my excitement for this.

What I also like was that it was in the 4 point grading system. Recently in a different class I was reading about how we should use a 4 point grading system because it helps the scorers to be less discriminating. (Chapter 10 of Teaching Mathematics for the 21st Century: Methods and Activities for grades 6-12) When creating your own rubric, you have to be very clear about what is acceptable and unacceptable (2 or 3). A teacher also has to set clear expectations for what is barely unacceptable to one that is filled with mistakes/errors and one that is acceptable but so-so to one that is shows a good understanding. Being clear is a necessity so the students are not surprised by their grade. I personally think that I would want to have a blank rubric with only the meeting filled in but than go over with the students what 1, 2 or 4 means. That way the students know exactly what I want them to achieve (3) but also they know what is unacceptable.

However in this reading they did say that some teachers have difficulty grading because they have a tendency to give better papers or projects in the class a higher score even if they don’t necessarily meet the rubric. Cory said that in his rubrics they have low, middle or high end for each level. I think that using this especially for beginning teachers helps them narrow down what each individual students is at.  There are many different ways to create/use a rubric. Because I am a math person I always try to relate what I learned to my subject area and I think rubrics are awesome. In school we are learning to go from a textbook/lecture based class to a more open one with projects. Obviously rubrics are going to be essential for me when I do projects.

p.s. I also wanted to say that the remote he was using for his presentation was so awesome. I have yet to try it but he controlled his computer from his phone with an app called unified remote (I believe it was only for android but could be wrong). This looks so cool and I can’t wait to try it.

Popsicle Sticks

Popsicle Sticks

So this week we learned about different strategies to use in the classroom. The one that stuck with me the most is the Popsicle Stick. If you have never heard of this before it’s a way for teachers to ask questions to classroom without picking the same student again and again. Prior to class the teacher would write each student’s name on their own Popsicle stick, when they go to ask the question they would randomly draw a stick and that student would answer.

Personally, I do not overly like this strategy because I think it puts a lot of pressure onto the students. However I do see the benefits from it, by having the random draws students are forced to stay on topic and be focused because you’ll never know when you get called. It’s also a way for teachers to assess their students about the understanding of the topic. You can also use it to create groups, which I never thought of until I read it here. The randomness of the drawing is unique because you never have to worry about only picking the people who raise their hands or the same groups over and over again.

But here’s what I don’t like about it, as I said before it puts a lot of pressure on students. I know when we tried it out in one of our classes I got a range of feelings. I was nervously sweating, butterflies in my stomach and my brain was already racking for answer to questions I didn’t even have.  As a third year university student, in a class where I feel comfortable speaking that is how I felt. I can’t imagine how someone in high school would feel. I get the whole “well if you create a safe environment/classroom, than a student won’t have any problems answering a question even if they are wrong” and I totally agree that this is something that teachers should strive for. A classroom where everyone feels comfortable speaking even if they are wrong, but sometimes the whole being “put on the spot answer right now” thing makes even the most comfortable student fearful.

If I were to use the Popsicle stick method in my class I think I would have students first turn to a fellow classmate and discuss an answer before randomly picking someone. That way all the students would be able to have an answer even if it wasn’t entirely their own. I’m not entirely sold on the Popsicle stick method but I do see the benefits from it. I think before I can decide I would like to try this out in my own classroom. There are so many different kinds of learners this instructional strategy might work wonderfully one year but might not the next, I think it really depends on what kind of learners you have. I won’t cross this off entirely and will give it a try sometime in the future 😛

I CAN…

I CAN…

… create a blog that people actually read (ha!)

This week we talked a lot about creating “I can” statements for in the classroom. For me this was a very new concept I have heard and spent a lot of time working with SWBAT (students will be able to) statements but never have I heard of “I can”. Outcomes, indicators and even SWBAT can be confusing for students. “I can” statements are unique because they break down outcomes and indicators into student-friendly sentences where the students can actually understand what is expected. With “I can” statements a teacher can write them on the board or hand it out on a piece of paper and bam! students will know exactly what they will be able to do by the end of the class.

I think this is beneficial for students because they at the beginning of the class what you want to accomplish and what is expected of them at the end of the class. With expectations set right away in the beginning of the class I feel like students will be able to focus more. They are able to take more control of their own learning which I think is a wonderful thing for students to do.

Diagnostic Assessment

Diagnostic Assessment

Something that is very important for teachers to know about their students is their prior knowledge about the topic that they are going to be teaching. There are many different ways to assess this, it can be as simple as asking a question and seeing if they students know anything about it at the beginning of class or more complex like giving students a test to see where they stand.

I think that pre-assessing is an important part of teaching, you are able to see if there is something that everyone struggles with so you spend more time on it or something that everyone gets so you can do a quick review.  When teachers don’t pre-assess you don’t know exactly know where to start.

I think that it is vital for teachers to pre-assess, in class we were told how a teacher gave a test to their students for pre-assessment. They made it very clear to the students that this wasn’t for grades, they wanted to see what they know and that the “final” test was going to be something similar to this but with different numbers. After this test they found that one student got a hundred. If they teacher hadn’t pre-assessed then this students would have been unchallenged, because they choose to pre-assess they were able to modify the work so that it was challenging to the student. I think that is a great example of why diagnostic assessment is beneficial for both the students and the teacher.