23 August 2007

Assessments and the Single Teacher

Clix has posted two excellent questions this morning. One in particular caught my eye:

About grading - I like the idea of not docking points for summative assignments turned in late, as the focus should be on learning AT ALL, not necessarily learning at the same time as everyone else. However, I can monitor work that is completed in class to be sure that it reflects that student's own mastery. How can I ensure the same level of validity on work that is finished at home? This actually applies both to late work and to make-up work, now that I think about it.

I am certainly thinking about how to make this kind of game plan work, too, in the sense that the answer needs to be manageable for the teacher. If you're a secondary teacher, you already feel beleaguered keeping up with the marking that you have...and depending upon your policy, you know the crush of late work that magically arrives in your inbox at the end of a reporting period. Sure, it's important to honor the differentiated needs of the students, but criminy...how can I possibly commit to even more grading?!

One thing I have been thinking about is student-teacher contracts. I want to do something based off of this resource I have which shows the relationship between Bloom's Taxonomy levels, "verbs" (such as describe, judge, compare...), and appropriate products. There is an additional page of just student products, too. Many many options for kids---although certainly not all are appropriate for every learning target. Is it too much, I wonder, to ask a student to individually have a quick conference about what standards are "not there yet," look at the tool together so that the student understands how it works, and then send them off with it and a contract to fill out and return within the next couple of days? Once the terms (timeline, teacher agrees with the product and level of work) have been decided, it's up to the kid to make things happen.

Ah, you point out, that doesn't really address the grading issue. You're still going to have miscellaneous things floating in for assessment. My hope is that by frontloading the terms of the contract, the grading would actually be simplified. The contract is already a bit of a rubric---you just need to see that what the kid submits meets the stated criteria.

I know Clix (and others) worry about parent or peer, um, "help" in completing things. My personal opinion is that parents are less of a concern in this respect for secondary assignments and having kids design their own assignment makes peer interference less of a concern. It's always going to be an issue. The only thing I can think of to put one's mind to rest is to just have a short conversation about the student work with the student either when they turn it in or at another point. (Maybe an appointment to discuss the work should be part of the contract.)

The fact is, there are always going to be extreme cases we teachers are going to have to sort out. I also think that having all of the answers ahead of time makes things a bit of a bore. :) Good thing being in the classroom is never dull. I will always have a lot to learn.


Hugh O'Donnell said...

I zeroed in on the homework validity question from Clix, and commented over there before I more carefully read your thoughts on that matter. Your common sense answer dovetailed with my comment to Clix...

"Regarding your concerns about whether or not a student's mastery, as demonstrated by a homework sample, is genuine, here's how Ken O'Connor advised me (paraphrased) when I asked him a similar question: ask the student a couple of pertinent questions that relate to the learning goal. If they stutter and stammer, that's a red flag. If they answer fluently, it's cool."

The Science Goddess said...

Teachers helping teachers. Gotta love the edusphere!