Monday, October 19, 2009

Rick Wormeli: Formative Assessment and Feedback Part 2

In the second half of Wormeli's talk, we began looking at a definition of mastery. He argued that mastery requires nuance, and that their are multiple levels (Introductory and Sophisticated)
"Anyone can repeat information, it's the masterful student who can
break content into it's component pieces, explain it, and alternative
perspectives regarding it cogently to others, and use it purposefully in new situations."

He suggests that defining mastery would be a very productive team/department meeting. You must be able to define these before developing assessments.
Wormeli, who works with college professors on assessment, used examples from "Teaching the Large College Class", by Heppner to demonstrate "What we are really trying to assess?" At the post secondary level, assessments are being created and graded not by the professors, but of others, to filter out subjectivity. This will be moving to K-12.
We then moved into discussion of Differentiated Lesson Planning with steps to take:

Prior to designing the learning experience:
  1. Identify essential learnings (This may take weeks.)
  2. Identify your students with unique needs
  3. Design formative and summative assessments
  4. Design and deliver your pre-assessments based on summative assessments and objectives
  5. Adjust assessments and objectives based on further thinking.

While designing learning experiences:

  1. Design the learning experiences with all of your expertise as an educator brought to bear.
  2. Mentally run through the lesson sequence with the diverse students in your class in mind.
  3. Review your plans with a colleague.
  4. Obtain the materials needed for the lesson.
  5. Conduct the lesson.
  6. Adjust formative and summative assessments based on your experience teaching the lesson.

Steps to take after providing the learning experiences:

  1. Evaluate the lesson's success with students.
  2. Record advice on lesson changes for use in future years.

Colleges are screaming at K-12 because over a third of kids are retaking classes over due to lack of understanding.

Many of his ideas align very will with Understanding by Design.

Final Thoughts:

  • Don't take time to assess unless you will take action on what you discover.
  • Is homework formative or summative in nature? Wormeli thinks it should be worth 0.
  • If a student does no homework, but aces every summative assessment, should they get an A?
  • If a student does all the homework, but doesn't do well on all summative assessment, isn't that a red flag as well?
  • Grades should be against standards not the route students or teachers take to get there.
  • Assessment OF Learning-Not a lot of feedback
  • Assessment AS/FOR Learning (Manitoba is using this.) Tons of feedback, lots of opportunities for student reflection.
  • Manitoba's Communicating Student Learning-Includes bennefits of student self-assessment.
  • Look for gradebooks that graphically represent student learning
  • Stop editing student work, put a code that represents it needs attention.
  • Write your objectives at the top of assessments with the assessment of each of those objectives.
  • He then shared several methods of formative assessment. This site has many he mentioned.
  • Great differentiated instruction is NEVER kept in the dark.
  • Successful assessment is authentic in 2 ways: Authentic to the real-world and Authentic to how the students are Learning (This is Mandatory).
  • Giving students the test ahead of time (At the beginning)
  • Portfolios with reflection are the most accurate pieces of assessment in the world.
  • There is no such thing as a perfect rubric.
  • Only give the fully written description for the standard of excellence (5.0).
  • 4.0 rubrics carry too much emotional baggage to be worth using.
  • Students will rally around the excellence.
  • Designing test questions: long on left, short on right.

Wormeli closed with a "Steve Martin" type explanation of video from "The Sound of Music" to demonstrate the goal, pre-assessment, ownership, "say-do", big picture, connected to personal lives, visual imagery, modalities and formative assessment, kinesthetics, natural learning environment, passion, contextural, complexity, tiering, meaning, engagement, and interdisciplinary teaching.

Rick Wormeli: Formative Assessment and Feedback Part 1

Edina welcomed Rick Wormeli, author of "Fair Isn't Always Equal: Assessing and Grading in the Differentiated Classroom" to the district to share his thoughts on Formative Assessment and Feedback. I decided to attend to see how these assessment principles can be enhanced by the use of technology integration. But ended up thinking more about how it might apply to my own professional development offerings!
He began by talking about the book "Inside the Black Box", by Dylan Wiliam and Paul Black. They discussed the impact of intense formative assessment professional development as having the greatest improvement on student achievement. Wormeli said he should be able to circle in a teacher's grade book, what is formal and what is informal assessment. Assessment is taking stock to be used for a decision purpose. The root is "to sit beside", which seems to indicate a coaching. Accountability is to enter into a relationship of mutual support.
"How did assessment inform your decisions this week?" is a question that all teachers should be able to answer, and administrators should be asking. Publicly defending your decisions is a great way for you to inform and improve your practice.
Formative assessment can be given at the beginning or right up to the end prior to summative assessment as long as there is feedback and the student has the opportunity to act on that feedback. Summative assessments that students can go back and improve on can become formative. Wormeli argues that everything can be formative!
What will my kids learn with out my help on their own, what can students learn with my help, and how can I close the gap? -Gallager
Formative has the greatest impact on student learning, yet educators focus most of their time on summative.
Artists and writers continually go back to their work and make adjustments. Teachers don't have that opportunity to impact the students they had early in their careers!
We have an obligation to change our assessments if they do not give the student the best opportunity to demonstrate what they know. (There are people who might use interpretive dance as a way to demonstrate their learning easier than a written test.) The SAT test does nothing but demonstrate the ability to take the SAT test.
"The Hidden Curriculum" is all the information that society demands we teach: taking a test, studying for a test, working ethically, "playing the game of school". We know how students learn, but since college teachers are not trained in pedagogy, they don't teach that way. Yet at the High School level, we teach that way. We are currently on the conveyor belt of the "factory model" school. Many "State Teachers of the Year" were "rule breakers," in order to get where they are.
He talked about Yong Zhao, Professor of Education at Michigan State, author of the book "Catching Up or Leading the Way: American Education in the Age of Globalization who discusses China's attempt to develop students who are creative thinkers, and how we are moving in the wrong direction.
What is fair, isn't always equal in the classroom. Even when we create a differentiated lesson, we end up giving everyone the same practice for homework. Homework should only be to practice things that you already 100% understand. We should create "practice" that focuses on what students really need practice on. If we use informal and formal formative assessment regularly, we will know the kids well enough we can differentiate more easily. Remind parents and colleagues that when they go to the dentist, they don't all have the same treatment. The same way, it makes no sense to prescribe the same "practice" for each student. It doesn't matter when someone masters something, just that they did.
Differentiated instruction and standardized tests are not an oxymoron. Differentiated Instruction maximizes what students learn, and standardized testing measures that learning. If you start using alternative forms of assessment, we HAVE to throw out, permission slips, band practice logs, and...Extra Credit! They don't matter any more.
IQ can be raised by 15-20 points on students in... their 80's! (Bridge is great for this!)

Too often, schools demonize failure. (Wormeli argues that recovery from failure teaches more than any other method. Likes the book, hates the title!) The key is Growth Mindset!
Wormeli gave an example of an essay that a student wrote and asked us to "blind grade" it. Our group scored it from an A-F. He has given this activity out at national science and English conferences and gets the same distribution. (Wormeli later gave us scenarios of students as a way to show relativism that affects grading.) Grades are extraordinarily inferential. They only represent a snapshot in time. In order to teach all the standards in each state would take till grade 22! We must decide what the grade will stand for and we need 3 or 4 examples of evidence over time to get a true picture of that students ability.

What are our 10-12 Non-Negotiables, "The Power Standards", that all kids need, and then assess them over and over to provide opportunities for students to demonstrate mastery throughout the year.
You CAN do this with the non-negotiables.
He then showed this video to demonstrate that with a little help, students CAN succeed:

Natalie matured much faster because someone stood beside her. Jumping in with the kid and sharing the journey with them is what will move students forward far better than stamping a 0 on an assignment and saying, "That's not good enough!" The recovery from failure is what teaches!
"How does assessment inform your instruction?!"

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Powerful Learning Practice Cohort Begins Tomorrow!

Last January, I had a conversation with John Pederson, at the Educon 2.1 conference in Philadelphia about Powerful Learning Practice, a "a long-term, job-embedded professional development program that immerses them (participants) in 21st century learning environments", developed by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Will Richardson. He was trying to put together a cohort of districts in Wisconsin, and had asked Will and Sheryl if he could include districts from Minnesota as well to get the the optimal number of participants. Since I was from Minnesota, he wondered if I would be interested or know of other districts that were interested in participating?After pitching it back in Edina and getting the go ahead to proceed, I presented the opportunity to the TIES Learning and Technology Advisory group, and after a lot of conversations and the inclusion of a great group of educators from New Hampshire, tomorrow we kick off the cohort in Oregon, Wisconsin!
Our team consists of our two 21st Century Literacy teachers, Heather Good and Anna Jankowski, 7th Grade science teacher Tim Ronhovde, 9th grade government teacher Claude Sigmund, and high school math teacher Katie Russell.
At dinner tonight, after describing our district's technology initiatives, Will said that it sounded like we might be farther along than others with the embrace of Web 2.0, the use of social tools and the publishing of student work. In reality, while there are pockets of teachers utilizing these tools for learning, I think we are still in the early stages of adoption. While I appreciated his thoughts, I hope our experience in PLP this year moves teachers in our district from integrating these tools into their instruction toward student's integrating these tools to become connected learners!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Moodle IS boring!

Recently, Sarah Horrigan, a British educator had an interesting post, brought to my attention by colleague Claude Sigmund. Horrigan was talking about how her colleagues were complaining about the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) their institution was using. It got me to thinking about pushback I've heard in our district regarding our VLE "du jour", Moodle. Staff using it for professional development complain that it's "clunky" or "too hard" or "boring." As Horrigan correctly points out however,

I then got them to imagine a really great learning experience that they'd
had while they were at school or university and what made it great. I then asked
the group 'did anyone's great experience involve a great teacher?' Hands. 'A
really great subject area?' A few more. 'A really great activity or
experience?'. Lots of hands and nodding. 'Did anyone's great experience involve
how brilliant the room was where the learning happened? How great the chair was they were sitting on? How great the desk was they were using? The pen? Anyone particularly excited by the pen they were using?'. No-one.

Y'know. I think I actually heard the penny drop as they realised that it's what you do with something that makes it good and not the places or tools which make it extra special. It's funny how quick we are to blame an environment and forget that inspiring teaching and learning is about the people and the players. As adults
we look at an empty cardboard box and see it as a storage device. Somewhere to
put 'stuff'. As children we looked at that same cardboard box and saw a plane. A
car. A train. An adventure waiting to happen. What happened to our own
creativity? It seems like we get confronted by a 'virtual learning environment'
and think that's enough. The learning will happen regardless of the effort we
put into it. Wrong! So, so wrong! When eLearning works, it's an amazing,
interesting, vibrant, evolving, engaging, rich space. When it's just a shell. A
place to download PowerPoints... boy oh boy is it a sad bag

An empty classroom is not a great learning space. It requires an engaging educator and engaging subject matter to make it interesting. So too with Virtual Learning spaces such as Moodle.
So now I'm off on a quest, to find engaging activities for staff using Moodle to extend student learning beyond the walls of their classroom.
Here's what I've found so far:
Hopefully these resources will assist in giving educators ideas on how they can turn their digital learning space from boring to engaging, just like when they meet students face to face in their classroom!

Michelle Martin at the Bamboo Project Blog adds her two cents as well.