Assessment

Standard

Recently in my coursework, I read the article entitled “Assessment of Learning, for Learning, and as Learning” by Lorna Earl. The article discussed different ways to address assessment.

I liked the idea of the varied roles of teachers in assessments. In assessment, teachers serve as mentors, guides, accountants, reporters and program directors. (p. 22) Each of these roles is explained in the article and it made me realize that there is a lot more that I do with assessment than creating and giving the assessment. All of these extra tasks make it difficult to focus on developing creative and effective instruction for my students.

The article discusses Assessment OF Learning as summative assessment. Assessment of learning is the primary way in which schools assess learning today. Students complete end of the unit or end of the chapter tests and these are entered into a grade book and used to extrapolate understanding of a wide range of skills and abilities. The primary purpose of this type of assessment is to assess the accuracy of the work students perform.

Assessment FOR learning identifies with formative assessments. Students complete work and the teacher uses the data from this work to guide and develop instruction. Instead of marking a student’s accuracy on a particular topic, this form of assessment is meant to identify strengths and weaknesses as well as provide feedback to the students. In this form, record keeping can be done in a grade book but the vast majority of it is in the form of checklists, artifacts and portfolios.

The final form of assessment is assessment AS learning. Here students are more actively engaged as assessors of their knowledge and skills. Students use the information to determine what things they need to continue to work on. In the method both the teacher and the student do record keeping.

What will we do with this information?

How can I continue to structure my learning opportunities such that I am offering more opportunties for assessment for and as learning instead of focusing on assessment of learning.

I also am considering my record keeping methodologies. Keeping a traditional grade book is easy for me. I also can easily track for completion of assignments. What I am not skilled at is anecdotal notes and recording my observations. I see 100 students a day. I can make generalized observations, but making student specific observations is difficult for me. I need to develop a methodology for recording this information.

I am also considering how can I use the assessment techniques/resources that I already have and redefine them to push past the assessment of learning and into the assessment for/as learning instead.

Understanding by Design Action Steps

Standard

This entry is my LDT 620 Learning Journal #2.

As I have begun to work through the Understanding by Design
unit template I have found that when I have sat down and designed a unit, it is the process I already tended to follow. In the Understanding
by Design mindset, teachers begin with the end goal or standards then
develop the evidence that students will be required to submit to prove their
understandings and finally what learning activities will be a part of the curriculum.

So far, I have spent the majority of my time on the first stages of this model. I have focused on breaking down the standards and getting to the meat of the content that I want my students to gain. Through this process of “unpacking” the standards, I understand what the students need to
be able to do and what mastery should look like. I’ve used this as an opportunity to identify key vocabulary and skills that students should have in order to be considered proficient or masters of specific benchmarks.

I then move on to think about how I can
and want to assess them on those specific skills or knowledge items. Right now, in my classroom, there is a lot of formative assessment taking place. Students have daily homework and classwork that they can use to develop knowledge. Lots of this is based on observations that myself and other professionals in the classroom make and use to develop further learning activities for those students. 

From this
I can develop targeted learning opportunities for my students that will assist
them in the mastery of the knowledge and skills required to attain mastery of a
particular standard or benchmark. I have found that I like specific activities where students practice specific skills. For example, I recently had students complete a number sorting activity where they sorted numbers based on best descriptors. They had options of irrational numbers, rational numbers, integers, whole numbers and natural numbers. This specifically targeted the skill of classifying real numbers. 

The one adjustment that I have made to the Understanding by Design approach is to change when I address student misconceptions. These are useful planning opportunities. When informed of student misconceptions early in the planning stages, I can intentionally teach to avoid these misconceptions without needing to backtrack and correct them. (Not always a bad thing, but ensures better understanding.)

Where am I going from here?

I want to work to create a series of unit plans that I can use in the classroom and add to my portfolio. I would like to do this for all units that I will teach, but I think if I specifically choose one or two units a trimester that I will be more successful. (It’s a lot of work and to create many of these at once would be difficult and overwhelming.)

As a part of my new position, I have a common planning time with the academic support teacher and the special education teacher that I can use to develop learning plans for the coming week/unit. If I can start the Understanding by Design plans early and share them with these professionals to guide our planning I think we could be more effective. While I am finding myself to like the template more, it can be confusing and since we are not planning on all parts, I want to condense it to the items that they will need to assist with planning. Therefore this document that I share with them, will have some similar sections but will have many sections missing.

I also would like to look more specifically at the idea of transfer concepts for my students. I created one transfer goal for my current unit, but I feel that this is more of an overarching goal for math teaching in general. I am also struggling with understandings portion of stage one. These are defined as not being ‘truisms.’ What then are they in math? I will need to continue investigating the subtle differences in these concepts in order to move forward.

What is Curriculum?

Standard

When I was in school, the general impression that I understood from my professors was that a textbook is considered the “curriculum.” However, we were not taught that we have to follow the textbook verbatim. We could integrate additional activities if we wanted or felt that we needed. I remember in my middle school math pedagogy course, I was asked to create a binder full of additional “activities” that could be used in the classroom. I spent hours indexing, researching, and analyzing these activities. The original intention was that this binder would be a starting point for us as we began our practice in the classroom. However, the way that I understood implementing these activities was that if I was teaching about solving systems of equations, I would insert this activity at the beginning of the end of the lesson. I could also use it as a review before a quiz or test.

 

While I understand that ultimately the “curriculum” is what is actually done in the classroom and does not need to be dictated by the textbook that the school decides to purchase, as a practitioner am unsure or fearful of not following a book. I worry that I will place too much importance on a particular skill or miss something else that is important. However, when I use the book as a safety net, I am less likely to fail.

 

This year, as I begin a new adventure in my career at a new school (for me), I am working to move away from using the book as the safety net. I have begun to think about the book more as a resource for problems that my students can use for practice or for me to use as examples. I am more encouraged to avoid following the book section by section. This year, I will be following the state standards and using them to determine what content to cover next. I will pull information from different parts of the book and have students work on those topics and not feel the need to progress from 1.1 to 1.2 to 1.3 etc.

 

Why this sudden surge of confidence from me? As I mentioned, I am at a new school. I am not restricted to keeping my students on a similar routine as what they had used the previous year. I have a clean slate. I have considered this previously, but when I have spoken with my administrators, they have sounded reluctant. This year, when I spoke with the woman who had the position last year, she described this as the way that she planed her lessons. I am encouraged and excited to begin working more specifically on teaching the standards. I am excited to see the growth that my students have over the course of the next nine months!