Category Archives: Assessment

How to be a boring, bad writer…and other ideas (TBT Remix)

I hadn’t thought about it this way:

So, if you want to be a boring, bad writer:

  1. Never ever learn new words.
  2. Be afraid to say interesting things.
  3. Read as little as possible.
  4. Always play on your laptops.
  5. Never touch a dictionary.
  6. Copyright.
  7. Never make [the reader] see the action.
  8. Never revise your writing.
  9. Definitely take the easy way.

Since I want to be a better writer, I should practice 1) using new words, 2) saying interesting things, 3) reading as much as possible, 4) leveraging technology to enhance learning, 5) using available resources, 6) striving to be unique and citing my sources, 7) presenting a good story, 8) repeating a revision cycle several times, and 9) understanding to “embrace the struggle.”

I wonder if the same set of ideas can be applied to PBL.  How to avoid PBL, Design Thinking, and makery:

  1. Never ever learn new applications and strategies.
  2. Be afraid to try interesting, complex problems.  It might take too long.
  3. Read and research as little as possible. Don’t read and watch Edutopia, Deep Design Thinking, or It’s About Learning resources or ideas from 12k12.
  4. Always use technology for one-way communication.  Just tell them what to do.  Don’t offer students the opportunity to have voice and choice in learning.
  5. If you try PBL, and it doesn’t work; just give up.  Never seek additional support and resources.
  6. Never collaborate with others on projects and problems that integrate ideas and/or concentrate on community-issues.
  7. Avoid applications and real-world experiences.  Never offer the opportunity to present to an authentic audience.
  8. Never say “I don’t know,” or “let’s find out together.” Answer every question asked in class, or better yet, don’t allow questions.
  9. Definitely do the very same thing you did this time last year.  It’s easy.  Take the easy way. Remember…the E-Z-way!

How about applying these ideas to balanced assessment?  How to be single-minded about assessment:

  1. Never ever try new techniques, methods, and strategies.
  2. Be afraid to try alternate forms of assessment: performance based assessment, portfolios, etc.
  3. Read and research as little as possible. Don’t read anything by Tom Guskey, Jan Chapuis, Bob Marzanno, Dylan Wiliam etc.
  4. Always use assessment to generate grades.  Never try non-graded assessment to make adjustments to learning that improve achievement.
  5. If you use rubrics or standards-based grading, and students don’t respond; just give up.  Don’t allow students to revise their understanding and assess again.  Let them learn it next year or in summer school.
  6. Rely on results from standardized tests to compare students.  Just follow the model set by adults that have not met you and your learners.
  7. Never assess for learning and reteach prior to a summative assessment.  Think that you are teaching a lesson if failure occurs with no chance to revise.
  8. Never offer 2nd chance test or other opportunities to demonstrate learning has occurred.
  9. Definitely use the very same assessment you did this time last year.  It’s easy.  Take the easy way. Remember… E-Z-way!

I find this approach connected the anti-innovation ideas from Kelly Green in her 2/21/2012 ForbesWoman article I found by reading Bob Ryshke’s post, What schools can do to encourage innovation.  It also reminds me of Heidi Hayes Jacob’s style in her TEDxNYED talk I found by reading Bo Adam’s What year are you preparing your students for?” Heidi Hayes Jacobs #TEDxNYED post.

I like the provocation of the video and the anti-ideas.  I appreciate the challenge of rephrasing these ideas as statements of what I could do to get better.  I wonder how we should practice to become better at PBL, balanced assessment, innovation and creativity, etc.  In the comment field below, will you share how would you answer this prompt?

Since I want to be a better ___________, I should practice 1)  _____, 2)  _____, 3)  _____, 4)  _____, 5)  _____, 6)  _____, 7)  _____, 8)  _____, and 9)  _____.


How to be a boring, bad writer…and other ideas was originally published on February 26, 2012.

 

Differentiation and mathematical flexibility – #LL2LU

How is flexibility encouraged and practiced? Is it expected? Is it anticipated?  What if we collect evidence of mastery of flexibility along side mastery of skill?

From Jo Boaler’s How to Learn Math: for Students:

…we know that what separates high achievers from low achievers is not that high achievers know more math, it is that they interact with numbers flexibly and low achievers don’t.

This past week Rhonda Mitchell (@rgmteach), Early Elementary Division Head, and I collaborated to reword the learning progression for mathematical flexibility so that it is appropriate for Kindergarten and 1st Grade learners.

How might we differentiate to deepen learning?

If we want to support students in learning, and we believe that learning is a product of thinking, then we need to be clear about what we are trying to support. (Ritchhart, Church, and Morrison, 5 pag.)

How might we collect evidence to inform and guide next steps?

Monitoring students’ mastery of a learning progression leads to evidence collection for each building block in a progression. (Popham, Kindle location 2673)

How might we prepare for mid-course corrections to intervene, enrich, and personalize learning for every learner?

By learning to insert feedback loops into our thought, questioning, and decision-making process, we increase the chance of staying on our desired path. Or, if the path needs to be modified, our midcourse corrections become less dramatic and disruptive. (Lichtman, 49 pag.)

What if we consider pairing a skill learning progression with a process learning progression? How might we differentiate to deepen learning?

Students love to give their different strategies and are usually completely engaged and fascinated by the different methods that emerge. Students learn mental math, they have opportunities to memorize math facts and they also develop conceptual understanding of numbers and of the arithmetic properties that are critical to success in algebra and beyond. (Boaler and Williams)


Boaler, Jo, and Cathy Williams. “Fluency Without Fear: Research Evidence on the Best Ways to Learn Math Facts.” Youcubed at Stanford University. Stanford University, 14 Jan. 2015. Web. 22 Feb. 2015.

Lichtman, Grant, and Sunzi. The Falconer: What We Wish We Had Learned in School. New York: IUniverse, 2008. Print.

Popham, W. James (2011-03-07). Transformative Assessment in Action: An Inside Look at Applying the Process. Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development. Kindle Edition.

Ritchhart, Ron, Mark Church, and Karin Morrison. Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2011. Print.

Fractions with unlike denominators – a lesson plan

Vicki graciously allowed me to teach our 5th graders again today.  Kerry and Marsha gave their time to observe and offer me feedback.

Learning Progression 

Level 4:
I can show what I know in numbers and pictures.

Level 3:  
I can use equivalent fractions to add and subtract fractions.

Level 2:
I can use visual models to add and subtract fractions.

Level 1:
I can decompose fractions into the sum or difference of two fractions.

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We used the Navigator to collect responses from all learners prior to going over each task.

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Think of the questions and the peer-to-peer discussions.  There are as many students answering 4/8 as 14/15.  Can you describe the thinking that might yield an answer of 4/8?

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How might we work toward making thinking visible? Why is peer-to-peer discourse so important? What if we practice flexibility to show what we know more than one way?

#LL2LU Show your work – grade 4

How might we foster a community of learners where everyone bravely and fiercely seeks feedback?

I was at EduCon in Philadelphia when this tweet arrived last week.

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Am I showing enough work? How do I know? What if we partner, students and teachers, to seek feedback, clarity, and guidance?Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 3.45.26 PM

Success inspires success.

Yesterday, I dropped by Kato‘s classroom to work on the next math assessment and found our learners working together to apply math and to improve communication.

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Now, I was just sneaking in to drop off and pick up papers.  But, how could I turn down requests for feedback?

Here’s the #showyourwork #LL2LU progression in the classroom:

Grade 4

Level 4
I can show more than one way to find a solution to the problem.

Level 3
I can describe or illustrate how I arrived at a solution in a way that the reader understands without talking to me.

Level 2
I can find a correct solution to the problem.

Level 1
I can ask questions to help me work toward a solution to the problem.

And here’s one child and her work. “Ms. Gough, will you look at my work? Can you understand it without asking me questions? Is is clear to you?”

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I see connected words, pictures, and numbers. I like the color coding for the different size bags.  I appreciate reading the sentences that explain the numbers and her thinking.  I also witnessed this young learner improve her work and her thinking while watching me read her work.  She knew what she wanted to add, because she wished I knew why she made the final choice.  I’d call this Level 4 work.

What if we foster a community of learners who bravely and fiercely seek feedback?

Connect, extend, challenge: using digital tools, tinkering to learn

How do we use technology to learn and grow, make mistakes and try again, test and revise?

In our EduCon “do and dialogue” session, Doodling the C’s: Creativity, Comprehension, Communication & Connections, Shelley and I used the Visible Thinking Routine: Connect, Extend, Challenge as a reflection and discussion tool after each round of doodling.

We have been using the following side in previous learning sessions.

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Not bad, but not a doodle.  Shelley produced the following awesome doodle to help learners engage with this routine as they reflect on their learning.

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Shelley asked me to add color.  Here’s where I learned something new and exciting.  I took a picture of Shelley’s doodle with my iPad and imported it into the Procreate app.

Using the app, I could try color, undo when I didn’t like it, and try again.  I do not have the ability to undo when using my favorite pens.  Using undo and redo gave me the opportunity to test, assess, and revise until I was happy with my additions to Shelley’s great doodle. Here’s the version I pitched to be the final.

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We immediately agreed that the question mark’s yellow was not what we wanted.  If I’d used ink on paper, we would not have been able to revise and play with color without a complete redraw.

Together, we removed the yellow and tried several other colors.  Finally, Shelley suggested that we just continue the green them for challenge.

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When we ponder how, when and why to integrate technology, do we consider how learners might use digital tools as instruments of self-assessment, feedback, and tinkering to learn?

Assessment of Assessment – calibrating points of view to learn

What if we take the time to learn more about and from the instruments and products of our work? How do we critique our work and hear every voice? What if we  leverage technology as a formative assessment tool to open discussions and learn from everyone’s point of view?

Here’s a snippet of how we embed learning targets on our test for student learning, feedback, and reflection.

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What if we, as a team, use a Google form to analyze our assessment to discuss where we agree and where we differ?

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While, as a team, we are close, we do not all agree on where we are with our latest assessment.  Now that we see everyone’s thinking, it is easier to discuss the gaps in our points of view and set goals.

Communication and collaboration are essential to high functioning teams.  How do we share ideas, questions, and understanding to support one another as we learn together? What high leverage team actions are we taking to support learning for all?


Connected posts:

Being Slow…Mindset…2nd Chances…Learning (TBT Remix)

Rule Three from The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle is SLOW IT DOWN.

“Why does slowing down work so well? The myelin model offers two reasons.  First, going slow allows you to attend more closely to errors, creating a higher degree of precision with each firing – and when it comes to growing myelin, precision is everything.  As football coach Tom Martinez likes to say ‘It’s not how fast you can do it. It’s how slowly you can do it correctly.’ Second, going slow helps the practitioner to develop something even more important: a working perception of the skill’s internal blueprint – the shape and rhythm of the interlocking skill circuits.”  (p. 85)

We still take a lot of heat from our colleagues about 2nd chance tests.  It makes many people, teachers and parents, uncomfortable.

About our version of 2nd chance tests:

  • Our learners take the test; we mark (not grade) each problem as correct or incorrect, and return the paper to the child without a number-no grade yet.
  • Their job is to find, correct, and identify errors.  We ask them to categorize an error as either a “simple mistake” or “needs more study”.
  • We also ask them to complete a table of specifications and determine their proficiency on the assessed essential learnings.
  • After all problems are corrected, students write a reflection about their work.
  • Armed with the experiences of teamwork, feedback, and self-assessment, students are given a 2nd Chance test and are tested on only the problems missed during the first testing experience.
  • The final test grade combines the correct work from the first test with the work from the 2nd Chance test.
  • Yes, it is completely possible to bomb the first test and end up with a 100 in my grade book.

My assumption is that this discomfort comes from how non-traditional – radical – this concept comes across.  Just because it is different does not make it a bad idea, does it?  The discomfort comes from gut-reaction or theory rather than practice.  Shouldn’t you try it?  What do learners say?

Here’s what some of my learners say.

“If you give your best effort the first time around, you will have learned more in the process and the second time around will be less stressful therefore making the hard work the first time more rewarding. I think that the second chance test is a very valuable learning technique. Even after that unit is complete, it shows you where you need to improve before you start building on those concepts. So far this year, I have seen great improvement in my learning from my previous years in math. This year it has all started clicking, and I am excited about the new units to come.”
~CM

“Before we jump into a new chapter, our class usually takes a formative assessment to tell us where we are and what we know before we actually start learning from Mrs. Gough. I take these seriously because I think they really do help. If I can see where I am in the beginning and then where I am in the end, I can see how much I’ve learned and accomplished.”
~ MC

In Mindset, Dr. Carol Dweck writes

“When people believe their basic qualities can be developed, failures may still hurt, but failures don’t define them.   And if abilities can be expanded – if change and growth are possible – then there are still many paths to success.” (p. 39)

More from my learners:

“Taking formative assessments and tests is something that I think is very important. I give my best effort, and work to learn from my mistakes. The second chance test is something that I think helps us actually learn from taking tests and making mistakes, rather than just getting tested on the material. Math has become one of my favorite subjects this year, and I have worked to learn from all my mistakes.
~VB

“I think that first chance tests and formative assessments are amazing because I can first understand my level and see what to work on and then really learn the material on the test to do better on the second chance. I do well in groups (except for the occasional random moments), and I love working in groups instead of taking notes the whole time. By helping others, it also helps me understand what I am doing wrong or just what I am supposed to do.”
~ HA

I feel the same as Daniel Coyle in the epilogue of The Talent Code when he writes

“Mostly though, I feel it in a changed attitude toward failure, which doesn’t feel like a setback or the writing on the wall anymore, but like a path forward.”

One more quote from our learners

“Overall, I feel as though I have done a pretty good job so far, but there is no one who can stop me from really stepping it up to an unbelievable level. The rest of the year I am going to fix any flaws I have, and show everyone what I can do when I REALLY put my mind to something.”
~ LM

In case this has been too broad for you, let’s go deep.  Here is one learner’s story from three perspectives.

From my perspective…

“GW came to me feeling that she is not very good at math and that she hasn’t been encouraged to like math.  She seeks an advocate and coach.  I strive to support GW as she becomes empowered to take control of her learning.  She is learning that it is great to struggle to learn; it is worth it to struggle to learn; and through the struggle she finds success.  Success leads to more confidence and more success.”   

From GW’s perspective…

“When I started out in math I had a really hard time and math was a definite challenge for me and my first test grade didn’t make it any easier. I was “in a hole” as my parents would tell me and I had to dig myself out. I started to go to extra help a lot more often and made solid B’s on my midterm and exam grades. What helped me through this process was the support. Support from not only my family but from Mrs. Gough and the faculty that really encouraged me to do my best.”

 From GW’s parents’ perspective…

“GW quietly got way behind in math first semester.  Partly due to an inner voice telling her she did not do well in math and partly a lack of commitment and time management. GW had given up.  Mrs. Gough communicated to us that GW needed to demonstrate the deep practice method on all homework. With our support and encouragement (not hands on help) GW began to do the deep practice on homework and began to “review and preview” every night. Our emphasis was ‘the process’ not the letter grade.

Her great success is directly attributed to the teacher/student relationship that Jill forged. Through encouragement (emails), support (office hours), an emphasis on deep practice and patience, Jill taught GW to try and try again, make the mistake, work through it, and get to the answer. Through perseverance, determination and resilience GW moved from failure and “not being good at math” to more than just passing. For us the 80 on her final exam was an A+ in effort, team work, student/teacher relationship, and determination.”

There are many take-a-ways for me…

  • If I can see where I am in the beginning and then where I am in the end, I can see how much I’ve learned and accomplished
  •  It’s not how fast you can do it. It’s how slowly you can do it correctly.
  • I have worked to learn from all my mistakes.
  • There are still many paths to success.
  • This year it has all started clicking.
  • I am excited about the new units to come.
  • There is no one who can stop me from really stepping it up to an unbelievable level.
  • Try and try again, make the mistake, work through it, and get to the answer. 

So here’s to being slow, making mistakes, and trying again.  It’s about learning content and skills.  It’s about learning perseverance and determination.  It’s about learning.  Period!

Time is a variable.

Learning is the constant.


Being Slow…Mindset…2nd Chances…Learning was originally posted on February 12, 2011.


Coyle, Daniel. The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born : It’s Grown, Here’s How. New York: Bantam, 2009. 217.  Print.

Dweck, Carol S. Mindset: the New Psychology of Success. New York: Random House, 2006. 39. Print.