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Assessment

Students Expect Feedback

By Annie Murphy Paul, The Brilliant Report, 9/18/15

“Frequent, low-stakes grading” builds confidence, motivation, and learning.

In general, I’m skeptical of generational arguments in education: that common line of reasoning that goes, “Millennials [or Generation Y or digital natives or . . . ] have grown up doing X, so we in education need to do X, too, to maintain their attention and engagement.”

If X isn’t supported by research on how people actually learn, then doing more of it isn’t a good idea, no matter how comfortable it makes young people feel….

But sometimes the young people are onto something. That’s the argument of Scott Warnock, English professor and director of the Writing Center at Drexel University, and I think he’s right. In a post on the blog Faculty Focus, Warnock describes the lived reality of our students:

“After going out for tacos, our students can review the restaurant on a website. They watch audiences reach a verdict on talent each season on American Idol. When they play video games—and they play them a lot—their screens are filled with status and reward metrics. And after (and sometimes while) taking our classes, they can go online to http://www.ratemyprofessors.com. It may surprise us to think of it like this, but today’s students grew up in a culture of routine assessment and feedback. Yet when they click (or walk) into our courses, the experience is often quite different….”

Our students have grown up in a culture of continual feedback—and more important, they’re right to feel that such continual feedback is essential to improvement and progress. Too often, our current testing regime offers little or no feedback all semester long, then inflicts a high-stakes assessment at the end of the year—and even then doesn’t offer much feedback beyond a rather uninformative numerical score, delivered weeks or months later….

Warnock advises instructors to implement what he calls frequent, low-stakes (FLS) grading—“simple course evaluation methods that allow you to provide students with many grades so that an individual grade doesn’t mean much.” The benefits:

“FLS creates dialogue. Frequent grades can establish a productive student-teacher conversation, and students have an ongoing answer to the question, ‘How am I doing?’

FLS builds confidence. Students have many opportunities to succeed, and there is a consistent, predictable, open evaluation structure.

FLS increases motivation. FLS grading fits into students’ conceptions—and, perhaps, expectations—of assessment and evaluation: This is the culture they grew up in!”…

Annie Murphy Paul is an author, journalist, consultant, and speaker who helps people understand how we can learn better. Her latest book, How to Be Brilliant, is forthcoming. See more at http://anniemurphypaul.com.

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13 Tips: Managing Second Chances

by Rick Wormeli, Educational Leadership, November 2011

Practical ways for students to redo assignments and retake assessments.

  1. Ask students who redo assignments to submit the original attempt with the new one and to write a brief letter comparing the two. What is different? What did they learn [from the second attempt]?
  2. Give alternative versions of the assessment if you think students will simply memorize a correct answer pattern…. Make the redone versions more demanding.
  3. Announce…that redos are permitted at teacher discretion….
  4. Require students to submit a plan of relearning and to provide evidence of that relearning before work can be redone….
  5. Require parents to sign the original, poorly done versions of assignments so they’re aware that their children have required multiple attempts to achieve the standard. (If there is neglect or abuse in the home, of course, remove this requirement.)
  6. After two or three redo attempts, consider shelving the push for mastery of this content for a few weeks. Either the student is not ready to reach the standard, or [we need to] figure out how to teach him or her….
  7. If the same student repeatedly asks for redos, something’s wrong. The content is not developmentally appropriate, there are unseen issues at home, or perhaps there’s an undiagnosed learning disability.
  8. Choose your battles. Push hard for students to redo anything associated with the most important curriculum standards [but not] work associated with less important standards.
  9. Allow students who get Cs and Bs to redo work just as much as students who earn Ds and Fs. Why stand in the way of a student who wants to achieve excellence?
  10. If report cards are coming up and there’s no time to redo something,… report the lower grade and assure the student that he or she can learn the material the next marking period. If the student demonstrates improved mastery, submit…the new, more accurate grade.
  11. For the sake of personal survival, you may choose not to allow any retakes or redos the last week of the marking period as [report cards approach]…. You can allow students to learn the material and have their grade changed later.
  12. Replace the previous grade or mark with the most recent one; don’t average the two attempts. The A that a student earns on his fifth attempt at mastery is just as legitimate as the A earned by his classmate on the first attempt.
  13. Unless an assessment is complex and interwoven, allow students to redo just the portions on which they performed poorly, not the entire assessment….

Rick Wormeli, is the author of Fair Isn’t Always Equal: Assessment and Grading in the Differentiated Classroom (www.stenhouse.com/fiae.)

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“My Most Effective Assessment”

Educational Leadership, March 2014

Student-Response Technology

By using technology for immediate formative assessment, I can give students timely feedback and change lessons on the fly to address student needs…. I use the Socrative student-response system to ask students multiple-choice or short-answer questions at the beginning of class about the novel they’re reading. They can use iPads, laptops, or smartphones to answer the questions. The program immediately sends me a report with student responses that I can use to address comprehension issues….

—Kate Lewis, 8th gr. language arts teacher, Shrewsbury (MA) Public Schools

Illustrated Mind Maps

My students create illustrated mind maps—diagrams that show with pictures what they know about a key concept. Example: to create a mind map of a U.S. Civil War battle, students need to convey all of the information they’ve learned about that battle with minimal text. (A large key might indicate that the battle was the “key” to victory, a graph representing the number of soldiers might reveal one side’s advantage….)

To create these mind maps, students need to determine what they know, then choose a way to represent the information. Both the process and the product reveal the depth of a student’s learning. These assessments can be used formatively throughout a unit—with students adding information as they learn more—and also as a summative assessment….

—Laura Putinski, 8th gr. social studies, Fairfield Christian Academy, Lancaster OH

A Reflective Essay

The final exam for my freshman composition students is a reflective essay. Students use examples from their own work during the semester to show how they have grown as writers, how their approach to and attitude about writing have changed, and what writing goals they have for the future. This is, hands-down, the best piece of writing most of them do all semester. I use the results not only to evaluate their readiness to move on in our writing program, but also as valuable feedback for the course itself….

—Renee Moore, English, Mississippi Delta Community College (Cleveland MS)

Exit Tickets

I have a pocket chart mounted on the wall next to my classroom door. Each day, students write on an index card a brief reflection about their learning, either in response to a specific prompt from me or on their own. I collect and review the index cards daily. Sometimes I use the information as fodder for the next day’s class, other times I use it to group students by their strengths and challenges for instruction. We keep these exit tickets from month to month to reflect on personal growth throughout the school year.

—Laura Grayson, Kirkwood MO

Weekly Check-ins

At the end of the week, I have each student summarize on a class Google doc what he or she learned relative to the weekly learning goals. I showcase selected student answers in class (anonymously) and make connections to the new learning for the week. This assessment can show me patterns of misconceptions among students.

—Andrew Ashcraft, Indianapolis IN

Self-Evaluations

If we [give students] clear instructions about how to reflect on their progress…they will almost always diagnose their own strengths and weaknesses accurately. Recently, a self-evaluation exercise on a persuasive essay allowed my 9th grade literature students to volunteer comments ranging from the practical (“I need to start wearing my glasses—I can’t see the whiteboard and made some mistakes I could have avoided”) to the thoughtful (“I found this too easy. I need to work on challenging myself to use a deeper vocabulary”). Student self-evaluation enables me to see where I need to target reteaching and improve my content or teaching style.

—Liz O’Neill, English, St. Agnes School (St. Paul MN)

A Self-Reflection Survey

At the end of each unit, my students complete a survey…. (1) Which assignment/activity did you find most helpful in enhancing your understanding of the major themes? Why? and (2) Which assignment/activity did you find most difficult? Why? The survey is not only an exercise in metacognition for students, but also an opportunity for me to…evaluate the strategies I employed to meet the unit objectives…. Students use the survey…to tell me how they learn best and what they need help with. I use the feedback…to adjust and plan future units, share strategies with my colleagues, and track trends over time.

—Angela Estrella, Lynbrook HS (San Jose CA)

Individual Reading Conferences

The most informative assessment I’ve used in my 18-year career is the reading conference. As part of our daily 72-minute class period, my students read books of their choice silently for 10–20 minutes. While they’re reading, my teaching partner and I alternate days in which one of us confers with individual students outside the classroom while the other stays in the classroom…. Through the conferences, [we] get a good understanding of students’ fluency (we have them read out loud to us), comprehension, interests, and attitudes about reading. We also learn whether they read at home, what obstacles they face in becoming better readers, and whether they’re making wise choices about what they’re reading. We work with them to set their own reading goals, to find the right books for them, to overcome their obstacles, and to celebrate books and passages that they love.

—Serena Kessler, English, Romulus (MS) HS

A “Show-Me” Checklist

I devise a quick “show-me” assessment wherein I ask the students to perform certain tasks and score them on a checklist that I have made ahead of time. I use the information to individually assist those in need… as well as to get an overall view of the collective skills of my class and reteach anything they haven’t mastered….

—Cyn Campbell, computer application, Coastal Georgia Comprehensive Academy (Savannah GA)

Math Pre-Assessments

We began pretesting our students on every essential standard in mathematics. These pre-assessments help us determine how deeply we need to teach each standard to meet student needs. It has been the most powerful assessment, and we have used the data in our district to make decisions about what students are learning, what they need to learn, and how they need to learn it.

—James Scott, curriculum director, Nadaburg School District # 81 (Surprise AZ)

http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar14/vol71/num06/The-Most-Effective-Assessment-You-Have-Used.aspx

 

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3 Lessons: How to Give Students Feedback

By Jill Barshay, The Hechinger Report, 1/19/15 [Michael’s note: This report is based on a “meta-analysis,” which examines the findings from many studies in order to find patterns and draw more robust conclusions.] Proponents of computerized instruction often point out that software can give instant feedback to students…. [But] educators don’t really understand how…feedback leads […]
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Redos & Retakes Done Right

By Rick Wormeli, Educational Leadership, November 2011  Second chances promote more learning—and prepare students for adult life. Jarrel plagiarized one paragraph in his health class essay…. Carla came to after-school review sessions…but only scored a D on her English exam. Marco was distracted by other things when he did his history homework…. All three students […]
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Grades Should Reflect Mastery

by Ryan McLane, Education Week, 6/5/13 I am the principal in a grades 7-8 school…. My teachers and I are discussing grading practices, standards-based grading, and everything in between.… The first thing we attempted to clarify was what exactly is a grade? If I were to look in my grade book and see that Johnny […]
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Bad Idea: Limiting “A’s”

By Ariel Kaminer, The New York Times, 8/7/14 [Michael’s Note: Though this article deals with the college level, it raises questions about the purposes of grading at any level.] Princeton University may soon end the policy that limited the number of students who received A’s for their course marks, an approach designed to thwart grade […]
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For Better Grades, Try Bach in the Background

by Tom Jacobs, Pacific Standard Magazine, 1/2/12  Research: Students learned more when a videotaped lecture was underscored with classical music. As every teacher knows, it is one thing to impart information; it’s quite another for students to process it. New research suggests educators can help this to occur by turning to some old friends: Beethoven, […]
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Assessments Make Students Smarter

by Henry Roediger III, New York Times, 7/18/14 Tests have a bad reputation in education circles these days: They take time, the critics say, put students under pressure…. But the truth is that, used properly, testing as part of an educational routine provides an important tool not just to measure learning, but to promote it. In one […]
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Avoid Red Pen When Marking Papers

by Dani Cooper, ABC Science, 1/18/13 Red pens are making students feel blue, according to a study that recommends teachers refrain from using the color when marking. In a paper published in The Social Science Journal, sociology professor Richard Dukes and associate professor Heather Albanesi (University of Colorado), show the use of a red pen in marking has […]
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