If you read my final blog post of the last year, you will know that I am struggling with assessment, and how assessment can shape learning.
I want assessment to be for learning, not of learning. I ran into this blog this morning, and loved the description of ass-ass method of teaching writing. The rest of the blog post is worth reading as well.
Assessment of learning, if that is all that is ever done, implies that students can’t grow intellectually and that they can’t develop greater skill.
It’s a fixed mindset, and in my view has done untold damage to broad range of students.
Many of my students suffer from the perception that there are smart students, and they get As and Bs. They have this school thing cracked, and there is nothing to do but keep raking in the marks.
Then there are other students. They ‘understand’ they are ‘dumb’, and will stay that way, and will probably pass and even often graduate, but what we are doing in school actually has little to do with them.
All my jumping up and down, and motivating, and cajoling, and sometimes crying is just amusing (and sometimes alarming) and mostly they humour me, but everyone seems to know where they fit.
There is no fix. The game is fixed. Our minds are fixed.
It’s all wrong, and I want to get off this train-track to nowhere, or kinda-somewhere.
As per my previous post, I have been implementing a lot of the strategies recommended by the assessment for learning research. We make learning intentions clear, we are focussed on skills and essential questions, we examine exemplars, students construct rubrics, we assess exemplars.
I have stopped giving grades until I have to, and use description instead. I ask students to self-assess, but the results have been underwhelming.
My practice has changed radically and I have learned a great deal. I need this to be true for students.
The next area of improvement, I had decided, was student portfolio and student self-assessment. I am working on integration of that process. But, the other day, via Twitter, I ran into this Sea to Sky Learning blog on the science lab write-up. The teacher has been struggling with making descriptive feedback on lab write-ups matter.
The key to Karen’s process is that all labs will be in a Lab Duotang. The feedback will also be placed there. Then, when the next lab is submitted, the student must write a cover letter in which they explain what areas they sought to improve, based on the feedback from the previous lab. The letter is in the form of ‘please notice that I worked on….’
I love this and I think it will make the routine feedback vastly more … routinized. I can use the doutangs to talk with students and parents, to write interim reports.
How to make this work in my Humanities classes? There are two key areas where I would like to see students be more self-evaluative, as a start.
First, I want them to ‘own’ the information we learn. The only way to do this is to show their thinking. This is personalized learning for all students. I want to hear their voices, and I want them to hear their voices. I want them to inquire, and see their brains on fire. We learn when we write (it’s happening to me right now), so I want to see them write more frequently about what they think about when we consume information, and why it matters, how it connects to their lives, how it expands their understanding, and so on.
Secondly, I want them to think about themselves as learners and as members of a learning community.
So, for starters, two sections of the Learning Duotang, one for Voice (response to information, response to literature) and one for Participation. This word, participation, is a very loaded term in assessment. What I am trying to express is the idea of active involvement in learning, whether it is taking place in a full-class setting, in a group, or as an individual. What is a phrase or word that can capture that? Active involvement? I want to students to become aware, if they have not already, of the absolute necessity of their active involvement in the learning process. Oral language assessment is part of it. Social responsibility is also a part of it.
I’d sure love some help thinking this through.
As the year progresses, I would think that students could pick an area in which they want feedback and improvement. The learning goals could become differentiated by student in a more specific way.