Monday, November 5, 2012

Assessment - There's got to be more to it!

I have been really interested in Standards Based Grading (SBG) and Standards Based Assessment and Reform (SBAR) . . . over the summer I got all into the twitter chats and subscribed to numerous blogs via google reader.  So this school year, so far, I have focused my grading (or gradebook more like it), but now feel a void in my current set up.

My struggles come from the fact that I have students who are not good at some skills, but I have not truly given them an opportunity to become better at their weaknesses.  For instance, I workout and I keep a log of all my workouts so I can see my progress . . . in April my bench press was about 185 lbs. while now I am over 200 lbs. . . . there are programs that can take my lifts and let me know if I am a beginner, intermediate, or advanced lifter based on my strength.  I can see where I am weak and can focus on those areas in hopes of making them strengths.

Re-assessment.  That's what I am missing . . . also I think I am missing great opportunities to communicate with my students what I feel is their strengths/weaknesses.

I am currently focusing my attention on one "guru" of SBG:  Shawn Cornally (@thinkthankthunk /  This guy is awesome and his posts are not only informative but amusing.

Something that has caught my attention from his posts is the idea of on-going assessments . . . I have been assessing my lifts since the spring.  I didn't just lock in a final weight mid-summer and call it quits.  Now I do have cycles that I lift through, then re-evaluate where I am and where I want to go.  In the classroom . . . how about I keep the standards/scores from first quarter and continue them in the second quarter allowing students to work on previous standards that they struggled with.

This would give a more overall picture of the student's ability in class . . . because that's what I'm supposedly assessing.  Right?  Not who is responsible with regards to keeping a notebook or completing homework assignments . . . my ultimate goal is to create the strongest math student I can.

With my school going to gmail and all students having an account I am looking at ways to really communicate with students about the standards, about opportunities to take weaknesses and turn them into strengths, to push my stronger students to higher levels and bust through plateaus.  Plus, how many times have discussions or surveys or exit slips given you a deeper glance into the thinking of your students?  I know I need those one on one interactions with students where the formality of a quiz or test are not evident and the student can speak candidly about the topic at hand.  Email is a great buffer for this . . . what a great way to find gaps in understanding and to develop an action plan moving ahead and to build trust and support with/for your students!

Think about it . . . it's the end of May, end of the school year, and each of my students gets a list of all the standards we have covered and gets a break down of weak areas, strong areas, areas of average strength.  Wouldn't that be more valuable to my students?  What does a C with a comment of consistent effort in class do for the student or parent?

I really want to attack this idea . . . I think my teaching fits well with this idea . . . I think I need to put more time into my feedback for students and begin to create more conversations about the progress of each of my students.  I think the time and effort will be worth it.


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