Friday, 4 April 2014

Co-Constructing Criteria with Students

An amazing group of teachers have been coming together monthly to explore classroom assessment. It has been great to be involved in the conversations as we collaborate and share ideas about how to use assessment to improve students' learning.

Last night, we discussed how to set and use criteria with students. Research strongly supports involving students in the assessment process. Setting criteria with students is a great way to begin involving students. When students understand what the learning target is, and they understand how to get there, learning improves. This holds most true for our learners who struggle (Davies, 2011).

In Making Classroom Assessment WorkAnne Davies shares her 4 step process for setting and using criteria with students. This is a process I have found particularly powerful in my own work, both in working with students, and when working with teachers in setting goals for improving student learning.

The process is:
  1. Brainstorm 
  2. Sort and categorize
  3. Post a T-chart
  4. Revise and refine
We made paper airplanes, and set criteria for assessing our work by using this process.

First we brainstormed a list, and then sorted and categorized. If we were working with students, some of the criteria on the list, particularly around "teamwork" would have to be further unpacked, as some of the language is vague.

You can see how we colour-coded the like-criteria into categories.

While participants went about using the criteria to build their planes, I went about transferring our criteria to a t-chart. As you can see, the criteria needed further discussion and refinement as we discovered that some criteria were either not applicable, difficult to measure, or incompatible with other criteria.

I love the iterative and reciprocal nature of this process as we work through it with students in the classroom. It is messy and takes dialogue, negotiation, and much consensus building. The fact that it is messy, to me, is the best reason to engage in the process. As a teacher, what better opportunity is there to model how we think about and work with multiple perspectives and sources of information?

What are your thoughts? What do you do to involve students in the assessment process? What do you want to try? Who do you have who can help you, that you can reflect on the process with?

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Attendance - A Few Thoughts

As a district coordinator for Aboriginal education, I am confronted daily with the issue of attendance and Aboriginal students.

First, I want to state up front, that I do not believe non-attendance to be an Aboriginal issue, per se, though we sometimes (frequently) perceive it as such. Non-attendance, at the risk of over-simplifying, is a symptom of much deeper social and economic inequities.

I understand fully the frustration felt by teachers at the secondary level regarding student attendance. For many teachers, they feel the failure of a student as a failure of themselves as an educator.

As we continue the journey of re-imagining secondary schools, a significant part of that re-imagining has to involve how we measure and communicate student learning. For those students who are often referenced as not attending, what incentives are there to attend, when attending means being reminded of their “failure”?

From our very best of intentions we aim to “catch-up” those students when they do attend, often with little success because those same students lack the prerequisite skills to be “caught-up”. So long as we are stuck in the paradigm of courses and grades, we will be stuck in the paradigm of pass and fail, which, from my point of view, contributes directly to the attendance problem. Furthermore, what consideration are we giving to those students who feel deeply alienated from their schooling, who have checked-out emotionally and spiritually, though they are not physically absent?

Consider an Ontario study (2005) that found students who failed courses early were much less likely to complete school: 89% of students with no failed courses in grade 10 went on to finish within 5 years. That number dropped to 75% with a single failed course, 59% with two failed courses, and 28% with three or more failed courses.

That’s not to over-simplify the issue—as course failure is a single risk factor among many—but designing for differentiation across our schools, rather than just within courses, needs to be on the table.

What about multi-access and asynchronous design? We see such approaches in many of our alternate settings. However, for many of the students who access alternate programs, they have already experienced the "failure" of school. These methodologies need to be built-in, and available to all students, before they experience school "failure".

Perhaps we need a provincial task force on student attendance, with a focus on making attendance a viable alternative to non-attendance for our non-attenders…

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Homework; Eleven Things

I have been tagged three times now in the Eleven Things meme which is making its rounds at the moment. Normally I would have passed on this, but I do intend to become more involved in connecting with educators outside of my school district.

So, thank you to Naryn Searcy (@nsearcy17), who got me first, Starleigh Grass (@starleigh_grass), and DJ Thompson (@ThompsonDanielJ), for thinking of me and tagging me in their posts. It is nice to read what you wrote and learn a few things about you all!

Here's How it Works:
  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers.
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.
Without further ado:

11 Random Facts about Me:
  1. I was in the Canadian Armed Forces Reserve from when I was 17 until I was 22, serving first with the 723 Communications Squadron in Halifax, and then in the infantry with the Princess Louise Fusiliers.
  2. Although I only lived there for the first six months of my life, I have the good fortune of having been born in Newfoundland, Stephenville, specifically.
  3. My favourite food above all else is raw oysters on the half shell—the small briny ones, not the big beach ones.
  4. I have never travelled outside of North America, only because I am so darn fascinated with Canada and its endless outdoor adventure opportunities. Someday I will get around to leaving.
  5. We have a family cabin in Nova Scotia where I spend much of my summers, nestled on a hillside above a lake on the same land that my Great Grandfather was born and raised on.
  6. My lovely wife Amanda is studying to become a midwife at the University of British Columbia.
  7. It took me ten years to complete my Bachelor of Arts degree—I wasn’t a particularly motivated student coming out of high-school, but found my stride later in my twenties after nearly a decade of food-service work (a path I have no regrets about, being a rich learning experience in itself).
  8. When given any leisure time, my preferred activity is to hit the single-track with my dog and my mountain-bike. Fortunately, living on Vancouver Island, there are hundreds of kilometres of riding available within easy reach.
  9. Though I have never had any formal education around it, and am completely self-taught via books and You Tube, I love fixing cars and motorcycles. I’ve learned that with patience, curiosity, and a bit of bravery, I can do just about any job I need to.
  10. I have seen the band Wilco fifteen times, the first time on tour for their first album A.M. in 1995. They’ve remained my favourite band for nearly twenty years.
  11. In my K-12 experience I went to eight different schools. My father was a banker, and we moved frequently. I think it has taught me to be highly adaptable, open to change, and able to integrate with new people quite fluidly.
11 Questions from Naryn Searcy @nsearcy17
  1. How do you balance time spent on face to face relationships in your own district vs online relationships?
    • As an itinerant teacher, I spend most of my time in schools with teachers and principals building relationships. The face to face work is my favourite part of my job. I am a dabbler in online relationships, and I am considering this assigned homework as a good first step in reaching out furthering relationships far and wide.
  2. Where do you want to go in the world that you haven't been yet?
    • I just love Canada’s National Parks, but have not been to nearly enough of them. If I could go anywhere in the world, I would like to experience the High Artic in summer by trekking through Quttinirpaaq National Park--along with visiting all of the other National Parks I have yet to visit. That or a beach in Hawaii.
  3. Are you a morning or night person? 
    • I am definitely a morning person. My 6 year old son and I wake up at 6 each morning. When my wife is out of the house and can’t make fun of me for doing so, I have been known to go to bed before 9 many evenings.
  4. What was the last book you read/movie you watched or song you listened to?
    • The Inconvenient Indian, by Thomas King, which I think should be required reading for anyone working in public service.
  5. In what school/position do you think you "grew up" as an educator (really figured out how you were going to fill the role of a teacher/administrator etc.) ?
    • In Richmond, at Blundell Elementary, teaching grades 6 & 7. I had the good fortune of working with two like-minded educators (another 6/7 teacher, and our Learning Support/ESL teacher) as a highly cohesive team. We planned, assessed, and implemented everything as a team, and put a heavy emphasis on relationship and community building within our classes. Our results were always impressive, and I look back on those years as being critical in forming my opinions and values as an educator.
  6. What is one thing you would miss if you had to leave the community you currently live in?
    • I would miss the easy access to nature that living in Nanaimo provides.
  7. What is the source you rely on most for news about what's going on in the world?
    • I’m a CBC addict. Radio first, then Web, but when I am up late enough, no one beats Peter Mansbridge.
  8. What is your favourite movie and why?
    • I have a soft spot for the quirky and eccentric, and am a big fan of Wes Anderson’s films. The Royal Tennenbaums holds up as the best of the lot, though The Darjeeling Limited is pretty close.
  9. Who will win the SuperBowl and Stanley Cup this year?
    • Patriots (am a fan), Kings (not a fan).
  10. If your son/daughter wanted to enter the field of education right now, would you encourage them?
    • That is a good question, and a hard one to answer. I think it would be a qualified ‘yes’. Qualified by his or her motivation for wanting to do so; lifestyle is a poor reason to want to become a teacher, especially as a child of a teacher. I think that social justice is an ideal motivator for pursuing education as a career.
  11. What is a good moment from 2013? 
    • A good moment is seeing my wife through the penultimate phase of her education as a midwife. It has been a challenging four years for our family, and we can see the end of it now, when she graduates in May.
Passing this onto:
Bloggers and non-bloggers, alike. If you don't, do. If you do, do. Only if it strikes you, though...
  1. Cathal Walsh (@RethinkEDUC)
  2. Judith King (@judithaking)
  3. Silke Yardley (@SilkeYardley)
  4. Tricia Anton (@AntonTricia)
  5. Jon Hamlin (@jonhamlin)
  6. Joanne Allair (@2girlsandpoodle)
  7. Sean Walsh (@Walshy4444)
  8. Brandon Curr (@Brandon_Curr)
  9. Scott Saywell (@ssaywell)
  10. Darlene Crane (@DarleneCrane)
11 Questions for You:
  1. What lesson have you learned from a student that has changed your practice?
  2. What is the best criticism anyone has ever given you?
  3. What is your favourite comic strip?
  4. What natural phenomena do you find most impressive?
  5. If you could only have one book about pedagogy, what would it be?
  6. Cat person or dog person?
  7. What type of tree do you most identify with?
  8. What would you be doing if you weren’t a teacher?
  9. If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
  10. What is the oldest thing you own?
  11. Have you written poetry as an adult?
Here's how it works:
  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers.
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.