Monday, October 19, 2009

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?!"
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