Messy Professional

“What did I get?” Time for some self-assessment.

As I wrap another year, some self-assessment is required.

It is apparent to me once again that many students still view the whole assessment process a mystery, yet it should not be so.

I am writing primarily about my English classes, but this applies in Social Studies as well.

We set criteria, we create rubrics, we examine exmplars, I provide ongoing feedback. Clearly, I still am not doing something critical to the process.

Many students still consider education, ‘doneness’, as in, “Have I done enough to pass, or get a B, or get an A”? When this is the case, the assessment is probably as useful and worthwhile as if I had just piled it up measured it with a ruler.

But I don’t use that method. I spend untold hours in careful assessment. Well, let’s be clear; I do count the hours, and they are more than I can physically and mentally bear, particularly when they feel, in least in some ways, a waste of time.

I love assessment. I love teaching skills, content, and inquiry. I enjoy reading student projects and writing and providing feedback. What I find agonizing is how often my feedback goes unimplemented, and how infrequently students do a good job on self-assessment. I ask for it, frequently. The students don’t know how to do it, or don’t do it, or don’t value it. They must, and the quality of that process will be part of the portfolio assessment they will do themselves.

Of course, I have to value it, and teach it, and assess it.

I am going to change some assessment routines, in particular, end of semester routines.

Next year, I will be implementing a portfolio approach to summative assessment, and it will directed and guided by the students. I will drop whatever elements of my courses I can in order to achieve this, because it will need to be completed well before the end of the semester.

Students should be very clear and able to determine the quality of the work they have completed and what they need to work on next time – as long as I do not accept personal responsibility for doing the summative assessment.

No mystery. The power of assessment will be where it belongs – in the student’s control and understanding. They shouldn’t have to drop by later to “see what I got”.

For English, in particular, I plan to put together a portfolio on large card stock. There will be three categories, Reading, Writing, and Oral Language. Students will collect artifacts representing their best learning in each category throughout the semester or year. They will reflect on product and process in both a written form and in an oral interview.

Anybody have anything like this? Advice? Routines?

6 Comments

  1. Are you considering digital portfolios? We have started some work around this at our school.
    Lot of research out there.

    • kinden

      I really think this is an importan question. I blogged about that here:https://messyprofessional.wordpress.com/2012/03/19/digital-footprint-or-digital-detritus/ and also here:https://messyprofessional.wordpress.com/2012/01/15/help-needed-twitterpeeps/ and probably in a few other posts. I think that this digital footprint is an important idea when discussing a portfolio of work. There are some very important questions – at what age, will parents be willing, etc. I think that the portfolio doesn’t have to be public. They could use a private storage platform, like Evernote (would that work?). However, I believe that more and more emmployers will be expecting to see the professional (and personal) footprints of future staff. What are your thoughts on this?

      • kinden

        Also, if you look at the comments on the ‘Help needed, Twitterpeeps’, Keith Rispin describes his thoughts on the topic – he is well on his way with this.

  2. Not sure if I can give advice but I can share what I do. My students’ portfolios include not only student-selected products (as you mention, artifacts) and reflections on their own learning, but also teacher-selected ones. The students discuss their learning and use these portfolios in a student-led conference together with the parent and the teacher.

    As far as routines are concerned, we have Friday as a weekly reflection time. I set aside an hour per week so students can look back and trace their progress, understand their struggles, and reflect on the overall conceptual understandings. We also reflect at the end of some important activities/lessons throughout the inquiry unit (those that I think are critical for developing understanding, or are challenging in some way).

    Portfolio content: artifacts, post-its (i.e. if the student expressed an idea related to a moment in the lesson), blog entries (I convert them in PDF format and print them), CDs (if it was a performance – i.e. delivering a presentation to class), photos, tests, anecdotal records, S.M.A.R.T. sheets, doodles etc.

    If it helps, here are a few links related to reflection that I collected http://elemtechideas.wikispaces.com/REFLECTION .
    I am sure that every teacher knows best what works for their class(es) and portfolios vary. I sure hope other teachers will share their strategies with you!

    • kinden

      Thanks, Cristina. This is a big help, and I also appreciate the links you sent me via Twitter. I like the diversity of products that can be in the portfolio, and that both teachers and students select items for the portfolio. I imagine that what is in the portfolio will be different depending on what High School subject I am teaching, but it is the process that I am really thinking hard about. I want to be able to show the students the incredible value in being self-reflective, in showing them that their success is actually up to them and they get to have control. I think a lot of times students and parents feel like the whole thing is a mystery and they are like passengers on a train going…somewhere, hopefully. Anything I can do to break down any of these barriers is critical. I do have a website for my courses, and I am finding that as the culture slowly changes, more and more students and parents are accessing it. It has been incredibly slow-going, and for several years I have felt that the website was primarily benefiting me. This year, I saw some ongoing use. I was one of only two teachers using a class website, so it is about training the students to expect/appreciate the value. More and mnore teachers in my school using a class site. I am keen to drop the walls, the veils, the curtains on the process. These are all pieces of the process. Do you assess their self-assessment?

      • Hi again Kelly,

        I don’t assess student self-assessment, but I do have individual discussions with them trying to inform them of my view and make them aware of what I consider to be their strengths. I also underline the steps of the metacognitive process that I think need more of their attention.

        As any good thing, it takes time but eventually children do have an honest, meaningful self-assessment. It is important to make it a routine so as they don’t feel it as being something “extra”, added to the process of instruction.

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