Saturday, May 3, 2014

Final Thoughts 5/3/14

As I think back to reflect on "Formative Assessment", many thoughts rush to my head. Unfortunately, at times I can't remember which book they actually came from. This frustrates me a bit when doing a project like this, but at the same time I feel like it is a good thing. In the end it really doesn't matter where the information I liked and attempted to implement this year came from, all that really matters is that I learned and tried some new techniques and really reflected on my teaching process.

From the actual formative assessment book and this class in general my biggest take away was how to more correctly or accurately use my the information that I get from my formative assessment. I think that every single teacher in our school uses formative assessment at times and I would like to think that every teacher uses it everyday and probably even every period. I know that in the Social Studies classroom I am constantly questioning my students and trying to gauge their learning, but until this year, I just would have a feel for who "got it" and who "hadn't got it yet". This was mostly based off of gut feelings and not any real data. Now I attempt to look at real data, like short quizzes and then see where my students are at. I now attempt to have that data be more of a drive in my classroom of where we should be going. It has led to myself finding new issues, like is my questioning at the right level, and what do we do when students "get it".  It has also led me to be a bit jealous of SRB for math where they have the ability to reteach students during this time.

In the end I have read more educational books this one year than I have in my entire career. Some of them I have agreed with, sometimes I feel like the author is completely bogus. I do feel like this has made me a better and more reflective teacher, even if it is overwhelming to try to implement so many things at one time.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Formative Assessment Project:

I did my project using my POD class consisting of 40 seniors. The project began with me giving a handout of major court cases in American History, landmark decision types of things. They were given a class period and a half to fill out this worksheet. We used the other half of the period to talk through the more difficult cases and what was happening. The following day I gave these students a quiz to check for understanding of these cases. If a student received a 7 out of 10 or better they moved on and if not they would have to be retaught and repeat the quiz (no grade book grade was given). On the first try 16 out of 40 passed with a 7 or more. 24 students were retaught the material. On the retake 20 of 24 passed and only 4 were re-retaught. When students were finished they moved on to an enrichment project that had them working on reading though opinions from court officials on the Brown v. EMA case that dealt with violent video games. Summative assessment will come later on the unit IV exam next week.


I am not sure if the reteaching of the material really made all that much of a difference, or if it was more the fact that the students who didn't pass didn't like the idea of falling behind their peers. They also claimed it was a "violation of no child left behind" because the other group was moving on with out them, I assured them it wasn't and that NCLB would be happy that they were receiving the individual attention that they needed.
I am also not sure that you could constantly be reteaching like you might need to, because can you expect half or more of your class to go off and learn on their own all the time? At this point I know I do a lot of formative assessments just by asking questions, but big projects like this are good to see who really understands and who doesn't. It will be interesting to see if there is an improvement in summative scores vs. last years seniors.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Grading Fixes Post 2

Happy New Year and Happy New Grading Fixes to one and all. As I once again sit down to reflect on Mr. Ken O'Conner and his ideas, I think to myself, in 2013 I have probably thought more about my grading process than in all 6 prior years of teaching combined. That is probably a good thing.

As we move more towards standards based grading and this final project for this class, I still have far more questions than happy comforting feelings. I do not know if standards based grading is the way to go for all subjects. I still have a very difficult time seeing how it necessarily works and works effectively in a social studies classroom, but that is something to hash out at a different time. Lets get to the FIXES!

Fix 13 Use summative grades only and not practice
This may be the biggest change in my overall grading policy after reading this book. Once upon a time I would tell students "if I have you do it I'm going to grade it." I also once received a stern talking to from my principal at another school for "not having enough grades in your gradebook." It is strange to me how the tide of education has turned and now we are saying you really don't need that many grades in the grade book and that we should use homework and sometimes even quizzes as practice rather than a big portion of the grade. I now have some classes with 12 total grades for the entire semester when I used to have probably 18 in a quarter.

Fix 15 Let students have a say in their grading process
While I do not think that it is practical in required classes such as US History to have a "menu" as a I saw in one book, I do think that students should have some say in the grading process. I also believe this is easier to do with older students, though not all of them of course, and in certain subject areas. I often wonder how effective letting students do peer reviews of papers really is. Do students take it seriously and are their critiques taken seriously. I think these can be difficult to measure, but I do believe their is merit in giving students a say, in the educational process.

I would say my biggest takeaways were: Don't grade students practice and the difficult task of separating attitude and behaviors from grades. I feel like both of these for me are a work in progress in my classroom, because at times I feel like why am I having them do work if they are not getting a grade for it. I also find it difficult not to want to just "punish" grade wise students who have poor attitudes toward school and the academic process. Probably the biggest take away from this whole book is just the fact that I am now thinking more about what I do in my classroom as terms of what and how I am grading. It is easy to get set in our ways and being challenged to assess ourselves as teachers is a good thing.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Thoughts 10/31/13

As I read this book, I often find myself agreeing with a majority of what it says, but then I wonder if I am being tricked, or coerced by the author into agreeing with them. I wonder if I had another book telling me just the opposite would I be as easily convinced? Then I think why are all the examples this guy seems to use Canadian, if this is so great why aren’t more American schools doing it? I feel that my cynicism towards this is making it very difficult for me to whole sale buy into the ideas that the author has.

Fix 1 – Sometimes it is difficult to separate attitude from grading. In our school I think that it is true that girls might be overrepresented on things like honor roll. Girls understand how to “play the game” of school much better than boys do.  I like the idea of having separate categories for behaviors instead of grading based on it.

Fix 2 – My late work policy has changed so much during my 7 years of teaching. I don’t think I can fully buy into the idea of no 0’s. The only way a policy like this would work is if you, would give incompletes to students who never finish work. Eventually we get to the end of the quarter, term, or semester and then we are forced to make a decision. Do we give the student a 0 for not finishing work? I also think that it is true that this is not a real measurement of their achievement and ability in the class and more of a measurement of a behavior, but what else is there to do? I have also found that when I have put 0’s in for grades in the past it has very quickly made some students notice and then hand in their work versus just leaving an empty grade which usually sees the student leaving the assignment until the last minute of the grading period.

Fix 3 - Agree with this fix and that bonus should only be used if it is enhancing the learning process.
Another thought that I had based on this discussion is the reaction of some parents to this whole process. Is this school district ready for the parents, that have children right now who are getting A’s and B’s based on their effort, and these kids who have been A or B students their whole life are now going to be receiving a report card full of 1’s and 2’s. I know the explanation will be something like the following “well this is an accurate representation of what your child can actually do.” However, are we then forced as a district to admit what we had been doing these prior 10 years was actually lying to you and your child about their achievement levels and artificially inflating their grade because they were a hard worker. I think school and parent communication is going to vital during this whole process.