Category Archives: Assessment

Teaming: Deepen Understanding to Strengthen Academic Foundation

How might we learn and grow together? How do we connect ideas and engage in productive, purposeful professional development (aka learning experiences) around common mission, vision, and goals? What if we model what we want to see and experience in our classrooms?

Influenced, inspired, and challenged by our work at Harvard Graduate School of Education’s 2016 session on the Transformative Power of Teacher TeamsMaryellen BerryRhonda MitchellMarsha Harris, and I set common goals for faculty-learners.

We can design and implement a differentiated action plan across our grade to meet all learners where they are.

But, how do we get there?

For a while, we will narrow to a micro-goal.

We can focus on the instructional core, i.e. the relationship between the content, teacher, and learner.

For today’s Pre-Planning session, a specific goal. At the end of this session, every faculty-learner should be able to say

We can engage in purposeful instructional talk concerning reading, writing, and math to focus on the instructional core.

Here’s our learning plan:

8:00 Intro to Purpose
Instructional Core: Relationship between content, teacher, student

Explain Content Groups tasks

8:30 Movement to Content Groups
8:35 Content Groups Develop Mini-Lesson

9:05 Movement back to Grade-Level Teams in the Community Room
9:10 Share Readers’ Workshop Instructional Core ideation
9:20 Q&A and transition
9:25 Share Writers’ Workshop  Instructional Core ideation
9:35 Q&A and transition
9:40 Share Number Talk  Instructional Core ideation
9:50 Q&A and transition
9:55 Closure:  Planning, Reflection, Accountability

We also shared our learning progressions with faculty so they might self-assess and grow together.

Today’s goal:
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Year-long goal:
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When  we focus on the instructional core and make our thinking visible, we open up new opportunities to learn and to impact learning with others.

How might we deepen understanding to strengthen learning?

NCSM 2016: Sketch notes for learning

NCSM 2016 National Conference – BUILDING BRIDGES BETWEEN LEADERSHIP AND LEARNING MATHEMATICS:  Leveraging Education Innovation and Research to Inspire and Engage

Below are my notes from each session that I attended and a few of the lasting takeaways.

Day One


Keith Devlin‘s keynote was around gaming for learning. He highlighted the difference in doing math and learning math.  I continue to ponder worthy work to unlock potential.  How often do we expect learners to be able to write as soon as they learn? If we connect this to music, reading, and writing, we know that symbolic representations comes after thinking and understanding.  Hmm…Apr_11_NCSM-Devlin

The Illustrative Mathematics team challenged us to learn together: learn more about our students, learn more about our content, learn more about essentials for our grade and the grades around us.  How might we learn a lot together?

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Graham Fletcher teamed with Arjan Khalsa. While the title was Digital Tools and Three-Act Tasks: Marriage Made in the Cloud, the elegant pedagogy and intentional teacher moves modeled to connect 3-act tasks to Smith/Stein’s 5 Practices was masterful.
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Jennifer Wilson‘s #SlowMath movement calls for all to S..L..O..W d..o..w..n and savor the mathematics. Notice and note what changes and what stays the same; look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning; deepen understanding through and around productive struggle. Time is a variable; learning is the constant.  Embrace flexibility and design for learning.

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Bill McCallum challenges us to mix memory AND understanding.  He used John Masefield’s Sea Fever to highlight the need for both. Memorization is temporary; learners must make sense and understand to transfer to long-term memory.  How might we connect imagery and poetry of words to our discipline? What if we teach multiple representations as “same story, different verse”?

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Uri Treisman connects Carol Dweck’s mindsets work to nurturing students’ mathematical competence.  Learners persist more often when they have a positive view of their struggle. How might we bright spot learners’ work and help them deepen their sense of belonging in our classrooms and as mathematicians?

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Day Two


Jennifer Wilson shared James Popham’s stages of formative assessment in a school community. How might we learn and plan together? What if our team meetings focus on the instructional core, the relationships between learners, teachers, and the content?

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Michelle Rinehart asks about our intentional leadership moves.  How are we serving our learners and our colleagues as a growth advocate? Do we bright spot the work of others as we learn from them? What if we team together to target struggle, to promote productive struggle, and to persevere? Do we reflect on our leadership moves?

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Karim Ani asked how often we offered tasks that facilitate learning where math is used to understand the world.  How might we reflect on how often we use the world to learn about math and how often we use math to understand the world in which we live? Offer learners relevance.

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Day Three


Zac Champagne started off the final day of #NCSM16 with 10 lessons for teacher-learners informed from practice through research. How might we listen to learn what our learners already know? What if we blur assessment and instruction together to learn more about our learners and what they already know?

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Eli Luberoff and Kim Sadler created social chatter that matters using Desmos activities that offered learners the opportunities to ask and answer questions in pairs.  How might we leverage both synchronous and asynchronous communication to give learners voice and “hear” them?

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Fred Dillon and Melissa Boston facilitated a task to highlight NCTM’s Principles to Actions ToolKit to promote productive struggle.  This connecting, for me, to the instructional core.  How might we design intentional learning episodes that connect content, process and teacher moves? How might we persevere to promote productive struggle? We take away productive struggle opportunities for learners when we shorten our wait time and tell.

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Focus on learning: build a team – Embedding Formative Assessment VTR SPW

What if we collect evidence of progress to plan for next steps in learning?

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What if we take up a series of 30 Day Challenges: Step outside your comfort zone! as described in Justin Cahill’s linked post? Justin (@justybubpe) writes:

How about professionally? How can I apply the 30-day challenge to my job as a physical education teacher? How can I use this challenge to motivate my students? How can I take advantage of trying something new for 30 days to help bolster my planning and strengthen my curriculum? How will I answer all of these questions in under 30 days?

What if we focus on learning? When we set goals, are we committed to reaching them? What if we set micro-goals and action-steps that move our learning forward regularly?  How might we choose to team to step outside our comfort zone for 30 days to shift our practice to more formative assessment?

What if we choose to build a supportive accountability team to carve out moments for self- and peer-assessment?

Four weeks appears to be a minimum period of time for teachers to plan and carry out a new idea in their classroom. (Wiliam, 22 pag.)

How might we shift to grow from

a knowledge-giving business to a habit-changing business? (Wiliam, 19 pag.)

What if we try for 30 days?

Indeed, the evidence suggests that attention to classroom formative assessment can produce greater gains in achievement than any other change in what teachers do. (Wiliam, 11 pag.)

How might we try for 30 days?

Viewed from this perspective, choice is not a luxury but a necessity. (Wiliam, 15 pag.)


Cahill, Justin. “30 Day Challenges: Step outside Your Comfort Zone!” Keeping Kids in Motion. WordPress, 06 Jan. 2016. Web. 08 Jan. 2016.

Wiliam, Dylan, and Siobhán Leahy. Embedding Formative Assessment: Practical Techniques for F-12 Classrooms. West Palm Beach, FL: Learning Sciences, 2015. Print.

Agents of formative assessment – Embedding Formative Assessment VTR SPW

Anyone – teacher, learner, or peer – can be the agent of formative assessment. (Wiliam, 8 pag.)

I wonder if we have a common understanding of formative assessment.  I like the following from Dylan Wiliam and Paul Black (2009).

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…evidence elicited, interpreted, and used…to make decisions…

How might we empower every learner in our community to act as an agent of formative assessment?  What if we all use evidence of student learning to make decisions about next steps?

What if we team to clarify and share learning intentions and success criteria? How might we diagnose where learners are and start from there? While we already offer some feedback, what if we are intentional about the messaging in our feedback? Do learners know where they are now and where we want them to go next?

The third strategy emphasizes the teacher’s role in providing feedback to the students that tells them not only where they are but also what steps they need to take to move their learning forward. (Wiliam, 11 pag.)

How might we increase the frequency of feedback loops to offer feedback in the moment rather than the next day?

But the biggest impact happens with “short-cycle” formative assessment, which takes place not every six to ten weeks but every six to ten minutes, or even every six to ten seconds. (Wiliam, 9 pag.)

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If we want the biggest impact, we need help.  Are our learning intentions and success criteria clear and visible to learners? Do we offer moments for self- and peer-assessment? How might we grow in our ability to give high quality feedback that enables learners to move forward?

If anyone can be an agent of formative assessment, how might we team to offer big impact?


Wiliam, Dylan, and Siobhán Leahy. Embedding Formative Assessment: Practical Techniques for F-12 Classrooms. West Palm Beach, FL: Learning Sciences, 2015. Print.

 

Growing into independence

Coaching or over-coaching? It’s not about intent; it is about impact. If we focus on learning, don’t we need to move to the sideline and watch? How will we know if learners are independent or dependent if we are always on their learning field?

On his own, a dependent learner is not able to do complex, school-oriented learning tasks such as synthesizing and analyzing informational text without continuous support. (Hammond, 11 pag.)

How might we intentionally plan and facilitate learning experiences to help dependent students grow into independent learners?

See that window?

Jill-Shop

Over the last break, I wanted to learn to make something that I’d seen my smart, creative brother make back in the summer.  Jeff, my brother, believes in learning by doing. He prototypes and seeks feedback.  How often do our learners do that or get to do that?

So, when I asked to learn, we went to work.  I received a 5 minute mini-lesson on the Kreg jig and pocket screws where I watched and asked questions.  Then, I was handed the Ryobi drill.

Generally speaking, one of our family rules has been that Jill cannot use anything that has a blade and a power cord.  So I predicted that Jeff would help me. By that, I mean stand right there beside me to keep me from making a mistake.

Nope. He was busy; working.

He did come right back to explain that the drill was a variable speed drill and asked me to slow down.  And then, he was gone again. Who knew? Variable speed so I could work at a speed where I felt confident. Amazing! I experienced success and a few failures and one do-over.

How do we make time and space for our learners to become independent learners?

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From Zaretta Hammond’s Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students

Independent learners regularly attempt new tasks without scaffold and have cognitive strategies to get unstuck.

Coaching or over-coaching. There’s more to the story,

Remember that window?

Consider that window…


Hammond, Zaretta, and Yvette Jackson. Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students. Corwin. Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Dec. 2015.

Hammond, Zaretta, and Yvette Jackson. Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students. Corwin. 2015.

Deep Practice, Leveling, and Communication (TBT Remix)

Does a student know that they are confused and can they express that to their teacher? We need formative assessment and self-assessment to go hand-in-hand.

I agree that formative self-assessment is the key. Often, I think students don’t take the time to assess if they understand or are confused. I think that it is routine and “easy” in class. The student is practicing just like they’ve been coached in real time. When they get home, do they “practice like they play” or do they just get through the assignment? I think that is where deep practice comes into play. If they practice without assessing (checking for success) will they promote their confusion?  I tell my students that it is like practicing shooting free throws with your feet perpendicular to each other. Terrible form does not promote success. Zero practice is better than incorrect practice.

With that being said, I think that teachers must have realistic expectations about time and quality of assignments. If we expect students to engage in deep practice (to embrace the struggle) then we have to shorten our assignments to accommodate the additional time it will take to engage in the struggle.  We now ask students to complete anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 as many problems as in the past with the understanding that these problems will be attempted using the method of deep practice.

Our version of deep practice homework:
“We have significantly shortened this assignment from years past in order to allow you time to work these questions correctly. We want you do work with deep practice.

  • Please work each problem slowly and accurately.
  • Check the answer to the question immediately.
  • If correct, go to the next problem.
  • If not correct, mark through your work – don’t eraseleave evidence of your effort and thinking.
    • Try again.
    • If you make three attempts and can not get the correct answer, go on to the next problem. “

I also think that the formative assessments with “leveling” encourage the willingness to struggle. How many times has a student responded to you “I don’t get it”? Perhaps it is not a lack of effort. Perhaps it is a lack of connected vocabulary. It is not only that they don’t know how, is it that they don’t know what it is called either. It is hard to struggle through when you lack vocabulary, skill, and efficacy all at the same time. How might we help our learners attend to precision, to communicate in the language of our disciplines?

Now is the time to guide our young learners to develop voice, confidence (and trust), and a safe place to struggle.


Deep Practice, Leveling, and Communication was originally published on November 20, 2010

 

HMW walk the walk: 1st draft doesn’t equal final draft

In her #CMCS15  session, Jessica Balli (@JessicaMurk13) challenges us to consider how we might redefine mathematical proficiency for teachers and students. Are our actions reflecting a current definition or are we holding on to the past?

How might we engage with the Standards for Mathematical Practice to help all redefine what it means to be ‘good at math’?

Do we value process and product? Are we offering opportunities to our learners that cause them to struggle, to grapple with big ideas, to make sense and persevere?

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Do we value our learners’ previous knowledge or do we mistakenly assume that they are blank slates? What if we offer our learners opportunity to show what they know first?  How might we use examples and non-examples to notice and note and then revise?

What if we take up the challenge to walk the walk to prove to our learners (and ourselves) that a first draft is not the same as a final draft?