Response for Ch. 9 and 10

Communicating About Learning

In Chapter 9 Davies discusses that caregivers are busy but both teachers and caregivers “come together in caring about the student” (2011, p. 85).  Communication may be difficult but students benefit from many individuals, including themselves, being part of the conversation. Students should be involved with “the process of preparing and presenting” because it “gives students the opportunity to construct their understanding and to help others make meaning of their learning” (Davies, 2011, p. 86). Also, it is important that all parties involved give feedback (Davies, 2011, p. 86). Some ideas are a student=generated newspaper, self-assessments and work samples, demonstrations of learning and student-parent-teacher conferences. The one thing that I question is involving students in all conferences; sometimes there are issues to deal with that I do not think the student needs to be present for. However, most of the time I think this is a good idea. I like the idea of teachers getting anonymous feedback.

I would personally like to have an online course where all assignments, feedback etc. is accessible to parents and students. I think parents should receive notes from their teachers. Using agendas and sending notes home and requiring students to get an initial of their caregiver(s) is one way to continue the conversation. I think student involvement is increased if you require them to have a portfolio, take books home to read, run a conference, etc. and these ideas are all things I want to incorporate. In the end, students should be doing as much work as the teacher!

One thing I wonder about is how the learning centers at a parent conference would work. This seems confusing and like an excessive amount of work.

“We can avoid pretending that a student’s whole performance or intelligence can be summed up in one number” – Peter Elbow.

There is no one right or best way to do this” – Davies.

“It is good to have an end to journey towards, but it is the journey that matters in the end” – Ursula Le Guin.

 

Evaluating and Reporting

Davies notes that “evaluation and reporting occur at the point in the classroom assessment cycle when the learning pauses, and the evidence is organized and evaluated by comparing it to what students needed to learn” (2011, p. 93). Then the results are shared, usually on a report card. An easy way to understand this is evaluation = end. Assessment = all the way through.

Evaluating requires teachers to professionally and fairly look at what a student can do, in relation to a standard (usually a grade or age level). Areas of improvement should also be recorded (Davies, 2011, p. 93). This is a subjective practice! Professionalism comes in when we make sure we collect many pieces of evidence that are reliable and valid (triangulation) (Davies, 2011, p. 94). I wonder how teachers decide what assignment is worth the most?

I like the idea of talking evaluation through with students before they go home so they can explain it to their parents. An explanation of grades, etc. should also be included. Students should also be given a chance to evaluate themselves and teachers and students can talk if their marks do not match. Not only does this create a less subjective evaluation, debating and negotiating is an important life skill for students to have.

Something that really bothers me is the idea of “compensating for the compulsory.” We are required in secondary schools to report using grades, percentages, letters, etc. yet research shows that this results in “less impressive learning, less interest in learning and less desire for challenging learning” (Kohn, 1999). This is very confusing and if I want to try to implement a grade-free class but am required to mark in the end it seems a bit hopeless. I hope we align our teaching practices with the current research but it seems we are often years behind (look at inclusive education, for instance).

One random idea about making group work accountable (do not know why this chapter made me think about it, but it did): Students would be made aware of this beforehand and sign a contract. Then a 100 points is assigned to each student. At the end of the process, students self-evaluate themselves and then each other and debate what mark each person should get out of 100. If everyone does their share they get 100. However, if one person did 70% of their work they get 70. Then the person who picked up the slack gets 130. The teacher then gives them a mark and considers students self-assessed mark. If the group got a 70% overall in this scenario, person one would get 49% (70×70/100), person two would get 49 (70×70/100), and person three would get 91% (130×70/100). I would not want to give those low marks BUT I think if this was used and explicitly explained, students would be motivated to participate equally. Not perfect, but definitely something that could be adapted.

Chapter 3 and 4 Responses

Beginning with the End in Mind

I like the quote that says “students can reach any target that they know about and that holds still for them.” Too often, the teacher only knows the outcome and this leaves the students unaware of what they are specifically learning or why they are completing a task. To connect this to my ELNG instruction, we are learning that if we are looking at a text with a deconstruction or a gendered lens, we need to explicitly tell kids this and explain why so that they can internalize these strategies. Involving students in all stages of the learning problem should reduce questions like, “when will I ever use this?” I love the idea of putting outcomes and indicators in student/teacher/parent friendly terms. Not only will students get more control of their learning, parents will have an easier time getting involved. Also, I think this would help teachers understand what they really want from students. This seems like a lot of work but Davies suggests using this simplified sheet in parent-teacher interviews, report cards and when making criteria with students, therefore one task can have many uses.

Describing Success

In order to describe success, educators need to know what success looks like. As a pre-service teacher, I have yet to figure this out.

The chapter also outlines that all students learn in different ways and should have many options to express their learning. Students need to be shown samples and models. They should also be part of the criteria making process so that they can give themselves descriptive feedback. When creating criteria with students, Davies suggests “1. Making a brainstormed list; 2. Sort and categorize list; 3. Make and post a T-chart; 4. Use and revisit and revise.” Samples help students but they also help teachers. Packages can be made that show different representations of learning, gaps in student ability and inform professional judgment and they can be collected between colleagues, schools and divisions.

Reflection

Davies suggests creating our own assessment plan. I think I would really like to take the ELA curriculum and summarize the outcomes and indicators. I think this would be great to do with a in-service teacher. That way, I would have a document that is more understandable and accurate to best support my students. I think this would be a worthwhile practice to do with my co-operating teacher this semester.

However, first I think I would need grade-appropriate samples. I can read and understand the outcomes and indicators but it is hard to know what that means for each grade level. Also, since I have never taught fulltime I do not have a sample base to pull from. This is an area where I will need to collaborate with a co-worker or two. As my career expands, it will be important to save student work so I get better support my learners.