A Caring and Inclusive Classroom Climate
All students have the right to an inclusive education. In order to make this belief a reality, it is imperative that educators create caring environments, reflect on their teaching methods, and collaborate with a multidisciplinary team to best meet the needs of all learners. Therefore, I believe that classroom environments should be planned with sensory needs in mind. A caring classroom environment allows students to feel safe, respected, and motivated to learn. Within the environment, educators must use evidence-based research strategies in concert with individualized student data to guide their instruction and assessment practices and target missing skills. This is made possible with the support of a collaborative team approach where all members of the multidisciplinary team take an active role in ensuring student success.
Philosophy of Assessment
“Many teachers teach every child the same material in the same way, and measure each child’s performance by the same standards… Thus, teachers embrace the value of treating each child as a unique individual while instructing children as if they were virtually identical” (Mehlinger, 1995).
No two learners are the same due to interests, readiness, life situations, abilities, and talents, and therefore, assessment needs to be as diverse as our learner population. All students are intelligent and need to have opportunities to showcase their abilities. This involves diagnostic/pre-assessment, assessment for learning (formative) and assessment of learning (summative). I believe that the process is just as important as an outcome and my experience in early childhood education has validated this – they do not seem to care if their clay sculpture turns out looking like the dinosaur they intended to create or a monster because they value the learning time.
Students as Active Participants – Students should be involved in the learning process. This can look like an “I Can Statement” on the board, co-constructing a rubric, collaborating to create an example, student-led conferences, or a student-directed portfolio of learning. As educators, “we must show students what is expected and what success looks like” (Davies, 2011, p. 30). Anne Davies notes that 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” (2011, p. 86).
Feedback – Feedback must be descriptive. Anne Davies in Making Classroom Assessment Work notes that “evaluative feedback gets in the way of many students’ learning” and students only “understand whether or not they need to improve but not how to improve” (2011, p.17-8). Therefore, educators must increase the amount of descriptive feedback they provide for students to grow. Furthermore, students should be allowed to try again, or re-do their work, until they have achieved mastery.
Differentiation – As educators, we need to differentiate our assessment to allow for higher order of thinking skills (analyzing, evaluating, creating, etc.). By utilizing the gradual release of responsibility and student choice (activities, environment, and resources) we can provide an assessment practice that is both supportive and challenging to all learners.