While mandatory teacher lesson plans might seem like an idea long retired, I am continuously amazed at how many districts and schools still heavily rely on this approach as part of their master plan to improve instruction. Have we learned nothing from state mandated standardized tests, which also (1) force compliance, and (2) turn our attention away from what matters most, student learning?
Assessment & Grading
In the previous post (part 1 of 2), we explored the fact that student response apps (Socrative, Kahoot!, Plickers, etc.) are often mislabeled as “formative assessment tools.” What makes them formative depends on the context in which they are used. Formative assessment is a process, and in order for a tool to play a part in this process the results/data it produces must be leveraged to differentiate instruction or learning.
Now, let’s explore a second problem with these apps, which is the belief that they are not generally associated with higher-order thinking.
It started with generally clunky and overpriced “student clickers” by such brands as SMART Technologies and Einstruction, and over the past few years it has transitioned into slick apps like Socrative, Kahoot!, and Plickers. Time and time again we have seen these apps demoed during professional development sessions and written about on websites and blogs. Nevertheless, we need to be careful that we do not prioritize technology over pedagogy by referring to these apps as “formative assessment tools” when they are anything but.
For my latest district professional development day I conducted a one-hour presentation on the topic of student opportunities to respond, which focuses on how long each student has to be actively engaged in order to “make it through” the current lesson.
Featured is the slide deck that I created for the presentation, and I used Total Participation Techniques by Persida and William Himmele as the primary resource for my work. According to the book, “Total Participation Techniques (TPTs) are teaching techniques that allow for all students to demonstrate, at the same time, active participation and cognitive engagement in the topic being studied.” Here is a quick overview of some of the slides that are not entirely self-explanatory:
My current school district is about to begin the process of examining our standards-based report cards, particularly at the elementary level. When I was made aware of this initiative, I had just finished reading Fair Isn’t Always Equal by Rick Wormeli and How to Grade for Learning by Ken O’Connor, and I was in the process of making my way through Developing Standards-Based Report Cards by Thomas Guskey and Jane Bailey. Without hesitation, I highly recommend all three. While one of my previous posts is based on Wormeli’s book, this post is based mostly on the work of Guskey and Bailey. (Inspiration from O’Connor is sprinkled throughout both, and I will dedicate more time to his book in the future.) I should also mention that the contents of each book are not mutually exclusive, as there is definitely a great deal of overlap when discussing assessing and grading in the standards-based classroom. However, Wormeli tends to focus more on daily instruction, while Guskey and Bailey provide more research for standards-based report cards.
Based on my reading and highlighting, here are four points to consider when creating or revising standards-based report cards:
I have always thought that assessing and grading is the one area in which there is the widest gap between research and what is actually taking place in classrooms (with my classroom having not been the exception). Over the past few days I finally decided to read through Rick Wormeli’s Fair Isn’t Always Equal. This book does a tremendous job of touching upon all of the topic’s key points without getting too technical. I could definitely see this resource being used for a teacher and/or administrator book study. You can read it cover to cover, or you can easily just dive into certain chapters to target areas of interest.
After reading the book, here are five changes that I would make to my assessing and grading procedures if I were to return to the classroom as a teacher.