May 2018 Reflection

Nature of Assessments

We are beginning to look at how we grade at Otte-Blair Middle school which leads educators to a very passionate debate. Why?  We currently have a grading format across all levels in the following format:  80 percent of the total grade is summative, and 20 percent of the total grade is formative.  The two categories are further broken down this way, summative consists of test, quizzes, and projects/labs.  Formative assessments are homework, worksheets, and bell ringer activities.

The problem we have run into with this current structure is that some teachers count daily quizzes as formative and only give summative grades for tests and projects.  So even in a system where everyone is supposed to be in the same grade structure, there is division.  The argument for this is that quizzes are a checkpoint of understanding at that time.  Which seems reasonable, but not consistent within the building.  As Wormeli (2006) points out, we need to spend time discussing what grading is supposed to represent.  What a summative, formative and what falls into each of these categories?  The discussion about where quizzes go usually leads to a debate about the number of summative assessments per quarter.  What if a student has a bad day?  Got home late and didn’t study?  Move an A student to a B?  Parent pressure about the number of assessments.   The list goes on and on.

As I look at how we are modeling grading in the community, I like how we developed a rubric of sorts, and are grading each other on the final project, the portfolio.  We need to be reminded as educators to focus on the final outcome with our students. We need to give examples of what we want and have students show us they have mastered the content, much like our portfolio.  As for science, I see it happening already; new standards which I bet will lead to standards-based grading. 

Things I believe

I sat down a did some free writing on things I think as a result of this class and the literature I have been exposed to during my first year.  I believe…

  • note taking must be more than words – drawing required, coloring optional
  • movement improves engagement of students
  • students sharing ideas with peers
  • doing is better than listening
  • students can learn any science concept if they can make a personal connection to the content
  • students need to be taught how to problem solve for themselves and within a group
  • continued reading of books on learning and education will keep me excited about education
  • It will take more work at the beginning to be a constructivist educator.

 

All of the above thoughts are beliefs which have been reinforced by instructors and supported by the literature.  These beliefs have changed how I present content to my students. From this list, the ones students most comment on at the end of the year were the change in note taking, movement in the classroom and sharing ideas with their peers.

15 Hour Interview Process

The 15-hour interview process was very intimidating. During the interview process, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  I was nervous.  After the interview, I got to thinking about how my students might feel when I suddenly ask them several questions about their project and then have them explain what they found out about a particular subject without prep time.  The questions during the 15-hour interview were thought-provoking.  They required you to know the content covered within the community and also be able to defend your belief on that content.  Challenging but fair.  I liked the ability to give feedback one on one with the instructors.  The instructors asked for ways in which they can improve the learning community.  I had two suggestions; the first was to add another book by Angela Lee Duckworth call GRIT.  It is a good book, so good, I have read it twice.  The other suggestion was the use of technology to present information to the learning community during a session.

Lit Review

The literature review is going to be a challenge for me. My strength is not in writing but in the application of what I’ve read and researched as a result of the learning community. I wish I were a better writer.

When it comes to the literature review, I have enjoyed the process of finding information about that will help my instruction in the classroom, but more importantly, help my students make a connection with the content. I have become better at APA formatting. I have become better at paraphrasing. I have become better at looking for facts that back up stances that I believe are important in education, so from that aspect, it’s been good exercise. Still, that being said putting all these ideas that I have in my head in an organized fashion that makes sense, is what I need to work on. Thank goodness for my Carrie’s proofreading abilities.

The groups that we came up within the learning community are going to be very helpful for the lit review process. Already, several people have posted information about our similar topics to our Google Community.

The critical thing about the groups we are broken into is that it gives you a place to ask questions, get information and to share.  This again stresses the main point of the learning community.  Literature that others have read creates dialogue and peer-to-peer interactions. I believe the key component to the comprehension of new facts or information gathered is the ability to explain it to someone else.

The only thing I would suggest to the instructors is that they come up with more models or ideas on how to collect and organize the information we have gathered thus far.

Technology

If you haven’t used Flippity it’s a must! Flippity turns a Google spreadsheet into all kinds of helpful classroom management tools. My favorite one so far is the random name picker.  The instructions are a little difficult to understand at first, but you have to remember for it to work correctly, one has to is publish the spreadsheet to the web.

That being said, random name picker tool has several options all under one webpage.  They are: a spinner of students’ names, a single random name generator, lineup tool, randomly put students in groups of 2,3,4 and teams of 2,3,4 it will also do a seating chart; however, it only provides classic rows and columns.  Another function of this site is speed networking which is an excellent function for the beginning.  One last item, Flippity will make a single elimination tournament bracket.

Here is the address:  https://www.flippity.net//

References

Wormeli, R. (2006). Fair Isn’t Always Equal: Assessing & Grading in the Differentiated Classroom. Westerville: Stenhouse.

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