MAKING THE GRADE will be a regular feature on my blog, highlighting the “take away” ideas from current books, research and readings with the common theme of achieving best practice assessment in our classrooms. Let’s get started with this week’s highlights from the book:
A FRESH LOOK AT GRADING AND REPORTING IN HIGH SCHOOLS
by Sandra Herbst and Anne Davies
Take Away Ideas:
4 Steps to Setting Up for Successful Assessment Practices in your Classroom
Before we teach any unit or lesson, we must first plan for success. These four steps that will go a long way to ensuring that your students are set up success in the learning process!
1. Determine the learning destination: organize outcomes into “big idea” categories.
We need to start any learning journey in our classroom by sharing the “big ideas” with our students. Begin with the end in mind. We have to show them the target we want them to hit so they can hit it! Including our students in the process right from the start means they are expected to be and supported as active learners. What does this look like? First we must start with the expect learning outcomes. If you teach younger grades, you will have predetermined these big ideas and have them ready in “kid friendly” language to share with your students. If you teach older grades and time permitting, you can involve your students in the process of organizing them in to bigger topics for the unit, project or lesson. What are the “big ideas” that you want them to understand after participating in these lessons/activities. Making the destination clear from the get go means your students can figure out a way to get there. Going through this process will also help you see how you can group outcomes to teach together.
2. Research the expected quality levels, create rubrics and gather exemplars to share with students. (Freebie: Link to poster of common descriptor language here. As prompted, request permission.)
Second, we need to communicate the expected quality levels with our students at their grade level. This means that prior to the unit, project or lesson, exemplars clearly showing different levels of achievement are shared with students. This is not a passive activity in which students are just “shown” examples of work. Let them explore them, have them work in groups to identify and sort what makes one level superior to another. Have students really dive in and find the qualities that differentiates and demonstrate critical thinking and good work from great work. Use consistent language when creating rubric indicators students clearly know what the expectations are. RUBRICS can help with this if they are crafted to describe what a student can do and what they need to do to move their learning to the next level. However, creating good rubrics is not easy. To help you out with that, I’ve made a FREE poster download for my subscribers. This poster outlines words that you can use at each level. If you’d like your copy and future free teaching resources, then just sign up!
3. Plan how you will collect reliable (repeatable) and valid (measures what you want it to) evidence of learning.
(Conversations, Observations, Products)
At this stage it is time to decide and communicate to students how they will be expected to show evidence of their learning. Best practice means that to have valid and reliable evidence we must triangulate or collect the evidence from a variety of sources. Our students do not all learn the same, nor should they have to show us evidence of their learning in the same way. We have to plan for that. After all, isn’t the point of assessment and evaluation to really know what they have learned so we can help them to reach their learning goals? As educators, then, we must ask ourselves which products (tests, projects, assignments, etc), interviews/conversations (teacher -student, student-student, etc.), and observations do I need to have so I can make a “no doubt” professional judgement about a student’s level of achievement? This may involve planning several forms of formative assessments throughout a unit of study, gathering data that will inform our direction of assistance with each student, helping them celebrate their learning and address their needs throughout the process. Again, it is best to involve our students in the process of this decision making. Can they actively participate in deciding how to show you that they have learned the outcomes? (More ideas about ways to show evidence of learning in the FREE poster download).
4. Early in the course, collect a baseline of evidence so you and the student can see the progress and evidence of learning later.
Gathering early evidence of learning is vital to establishing a baseline of achievement. This will establish a helpful reference for both student and teacher to “see” the learning that takes place throughout the course or unit of study. Think of this process as much the same as why a doctor takes your blood pressure and heart rate for your medical records. He or she then has it for referral to monitor your health over time. Having the baseline provides evidence as to whether your health is improving, staying status quo, or declining. In the education process, this baseline can inform our programming choices for a student and help them witness their successes while addressing their needs.
Finally, I can’t stress enough, that the authors of this book make the assertion that best practice assessment is only achieved when evidence is gathered over time and from a variety of sources. Assessment is a process that provides data driven instructional practice, whereas evaluation is the final professional judgement of the process. When approached in this manner, the research clearly shows that higher student learning results. The research of Sandra Herbst and Anne Davies, then, should inspire all of us to evaluate and improve our assessment practices for the good of our students.
Teacher, Author, Assessment Coach, HSD
Herbst-Luedtke, Sandra, and Anne Davies. A Fresh Look at Grading and Reporting in High Schools. Courtenay, BC: Connect21earning., 2014. Print.