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Grades gone wild…

The Keys @k.c.love

Cult of Pedagogy turned my attention to this fantastic post by Arthur Chiaravalli, “Teachers Going Gradeless.” 

Gratitude for my PLN for helping me stay fresh, excited and wise: things have been tricky at my school recently, and while we’re on spring break I am determined to relax, dangit. Refresh, Renew. All that good stuff. People are worried about me (turns out middle school girls and boys think I’m crying when I am having a hot flash–thanks, menopause). I was beginning to get a little worried about myself: have I taught them enough? Is testing going to be okay? Will the boy who won’t allow me to help him be a better reader be okay? Will that girl who has given up on herself understand that we won’t give up on her?

Perhaps this may be the simple answer to those complex, emotional questions: as we strive to allow for our students to be independent, the most obvious path is the timeless practice of self-assessment. Their emotional responses to learned helplessness and inner-dialogue of shame may be cooled by simply allowing them the space that they are in more control than they believe. 

Things on teachers’ minds must be washed and dried before break ends–otherwise, it’s not a break. So just in the nick of time here are some ideas about having students self-assess. Chiaravelli draws from the great minds of pedagogy:

Drawing on the research of Ruth Butler, Dylan Wiliam, John Hattie, Daniel Pink, Carol Dweck, Alfie Kohn, Linda McNeil, Linda Mabry, Maja Wilson and countless others, we are teachers who are convinced that teaching and learning can be better when we grade less.

For some of us, the word gradeless means to grade less, that is, limiting the impact of grades within the context of current constraints. Some are just trying to get away from toxic assessment and grading practices, like assessments with no opportunity to redo or retake or zeroes on the mathematically disproportionate 100-point scale.

Okay, cool. I have always allowed for redos, and never marked things down for being late, etc. Okay. Instincts without research don’t mean anything – so he provides the research.

What my grading practices are now:
  1. Non-negotiable assignments:
    • Weekly Vocabulary worth 50 points
      • If they don’t turn it in, it goes in zero and missing in Skyward.
      • They have one to two weeks to turn it in and receive full points. I never mark down work simply for being late, and never have.
      • Positive: Once they see they are in control of their non-negotiables and have choice and flexibility,  they get in a routine of learning and diving into new words.
      • Negative: Students still don’t understand that the zero, which is horrible but the only way they and their parents pay attention or get a notification, can be easily remedied by doing the work. I will ask other students in the class who have turned things in late and subsequently turn them in, and their grade changes, to share that with the class. In addition, I still need to track students down.
  2. Grading every two weeks as required.
  3. Grading assessments (especially the Common Formative Assessments created by our ELA PLC 8th grade as ‘no count.’
How are they evolving:
  1. I created a unit/module in Canvas called “Top Ten Things” for ELA. Its intended purpose allows for student flexibility: if they are done with something, they can explore ten lessons in a ‘flipped’ way.
    • Positive: Students who seek them out enjoy doing them as “extra credit.”
    • Allows for self-exploration and questions– great opportunity for metacognition and independent work.
    • Negative: Students have been confused — understandable. These absolutely require my guidance, and that’s fine. Another issue is students requiring more guidance than time allows. After the break this is something I will address.
  2. Provided a ‘create your own rubric lesson’ in the fall: this is a concept I plan on bringing back this spring after the break.
  3. Allowing students to assess student work—now that there is student work to share based on current projects!
Next level:
  1. Paraphrasing and crafting metrics and rubrics based on CCSS, standardized assessments (from the OSPI/SBA)
  2. Crafting choice projects/burning questions metrics based on CCSS
  3. Crafting and self-assessing on both low stakes and high stakes assignments they create and produce.
  4. Continuing to provide curriculum maps to students — visible checklists to help guide them.
Clarifying goals:

The second finding comes from John Hattie (2012) whose synthesis of 800 meta-studies showed that student self-assessment/self-grading topped the list of educational interventions with the highest effect size. By teaching students how to accurately self-assess based on clear criteria, teachers empower them to become “self-regulated learners” able to monitor, regulate, and guide their own learning. The reason students never develop these traits is that our monopoly on assessment, feedback, and grading has trained students to adopt an attitude of total passivity in the learning process.

Let us all “grade less” so students can learn more. Just like in any creative pursuit, the linear qualities of rubrics do not have to constrain, but to guide.

PS Not sure where I found this:

This could be a good approach to student-created rubrics.

Update:

You’re a Human Being – Do Not Assess Like a Robot

 

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No rest for the wicked.

via GIPHY

This weekend after spending nearly a full work day on lessons from outside sources, editing, and refining to suit my students’ instructional path and understandings, I then turned my attention to creating a OneNote Unit class notebook based on my ‘fear’ unit. My growth and love are curriculum and method planning and delivery: my student teacher noticed and said I would be a great methods instructor at her university.  Maybe someday. But in the meantime, I’m still honing my craft by reading, reflecting, sharing, and altering. (If you want me to share this OneNote file send me an email: k.c.love@comcast.net)

But after dealing with some anxiety since September about how things are going to work, I’m trying to balance outside directions, incorporate, and make sure my work is supportive and supported. 

No small task.  In fact, it’s kind of terrifying.

mirror-scared

My passion is creating units: curating the choicest resources (texts, media, discussion topics) is enjoyable for me.

I realize Heinemann is a publishing company and wants to sell books. Does that preclude that the resources are somehow less credible because they’re sold? Well, you can be the judge of that. I found this article useful, especially since I’m learning about instructional coaching and some of the pitfalls and potholes one can step into. Maybe it’s my confirmation bias speaking, but I found that the “better” column included many of the practices I do all the time, and the “not good” column stems from mandated or top-down practices.

How One Classroom Teacher Improved Her Planning

Instructional Coach Jaclyn Karabinas on how to get started using her techniques

Not good:

Here, teachers’ time is spent:

Better:

One invites students to be literate, constructive, and empathetic members of the world, intellectually prepared to encounter the nonstandard, moving targets that come with it. This model depicts a learning structure where student questions are used as entry points into standards and content, masterfully guided by the teacher. It is a learning environment rooted in Dewey and Vygotsky and the experiences of master teachers everywhere. Each individual brings his or her own background and preferences as they walk through the door, yet everyone thrives on socially constructed meaning and active learning. It is a classroom where students critically read challenging text or joyfully engage with literature because they know how to define a purpose for reading. It is a place where learning is not focused solely on student individual success but also the rhythms and flow of working and functioning in society.

In this model, a teacher’s time is spent:

The article continues to quote John Hattie, a resource I will be forever grateful to my new admin for introducing me to:

John Hattie’s Visible Learning research focuses on not just what works in schools but what works best. Hattie reminds educators to base instructional decisions on the evidence from their unique classroom situations, to “see learning through the eyes of their students” and create a learning environment where “students see themselves as their own teachers” (Hattie, Masters, Birch 2016). This type of approach suggests that making a true impact on student learning requires teachers and leaders to spend time talking about what they actually see happening in their classrooms, to ask why, and to deeply consider the impact on student learning — not coverage. To plan based on real student needs, not a theoretical scope and sequence.

So, while planning, I’ll continue to ask myself these questions–it’s what I do.

Start with your district’s curricular goals: Before you move into your next, planned curricular unit, carefully reread the goals presented at the start of the chapter or in your district’s standard’s document.

  • As you work with students, make notes on not only on how close they already are to meeting a goal but also specific attitudes, thinking, and behaviors they show in relation to it.

Gather more information: When you sit down to plan the launch of the next unit, talk with a colleague about how the current unit connects to the goals of the upcoming unit

  • Launch the next unit using images or video, collaborative problem solving, listing, quick writing, or drawing so students can activate and share prior knowledge; make notes about the information that students already come to class with —yes!
  • Add this information to your prior notes and conversations, noting which goals will be important for each student (a checklist will do this quickly!)

Make it relevant for students: Work with your students to understand the broader goals you’ll be teaching toward and help them to personalize goals for themselves. Relevance is crucial for rigorous learning because, as Kylene Beers and Bob Probst say, “Rigor without relevance is just hard.”

  • Make goals visible (Serravallo 2015) for the class as a whole and as individuals; classroom charts and other learning tools like those suggested by Kate and Maggie Roberts can help (Roberts and Roberts 2016)

Provide time for student reflection: As you design each day, include chances for student reflection. This is an opportunity for learning to sink in and become sticky.

  • You might still move through the teacher’s guide lesson by lesson as you learn this method — that’s OK! Keep student learning goals in mind, and you will be on the right track.*

*I’ve never had a teacher’s guide for any lesson, and I look forward to my district’s frameworks when those are completed. 

No, this is no small task, but important…very important. All of my credentials (National Boards, NWP/PSWP work, summers of workshops and additional professional development on my time/dime, reading, reading and more reading) don’t mean squat if I’m not putting it into practice. I can’t wait to work with a coach from the district on a teacher-action research project I began years ago, and thank goodness my admin saw that the work needed to continue, and thought of me. These moments I’m so grateful for, because working in a vacuum was sucking the air out of me. 

And that’s scary.

curriculum...must...escape!
curriculum…must…escape!

But not as scary as not being the best teacher I can is.

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Got the whole data in his hands…

This may not have much to do with the topic, but I always think a little Carl Sagan thrown in on a hopeless Saturday morning to be a good thing to get some perspective. Everything from Ben Carson wanting to use his magic time machine and give guns to Jews, (and others who think he was right, who also have no idea how anything works), to folks conflating their religious beliefs with their tax dollars. Me? Shrug. I’ve got big data to keep me warm for a few hours! Seriously – no snark, promise –this is fun for me–looking over ideas from charts and exploring what’s behind the numbers.

Visible Learning by John Hattie (2009) takes on ‘meta-analysis relating to achievement.‘ This book is a gift from our new administrator, and I am grateful for it. In a nutshell, there are over a hundred concepts that have been tried in education to promote student achievement. The word “achievement” has a mental bookmark for me, because I need to stop and look up the definition of achievement in this context.

After a few attempts around the Interwebs, I came across this:

Examples/Glossary and links to instructional methods are here.

A colleague and I were discussing at lunch that most of the reports, when investigated further, need to be considered through a critical eye–to me, the data are a tapestry. If, say for instance Home Life is not judged solely on the basis of its number, but on the complex responses of parents to children’s schooling, then it does have an impact when taken out of its data silo. The concept of parent ‘surveillance’ hit home with me especially in this day of instant progress and missing assignment reports. I’ve been guilty of this, and perhaps we need to look at our grading reporting systems so we don’t enable parents to be supervisors or spies in their children’s education, but seek to aspire as Hattie suggests. Looking at classroom size–this needs another review. If you’re at 20 to 30 there isn’t much difference, but if you get to classroom sizes of 40, yes, that has to impact learning, if those 40 are relenting to peer pressure and not tracking the instruction. Teasing out one factor from another is difficult. But maybe I’m just clinging to the Old Gods of Educational Myths.

Grant Wiggins wrote on article back in 2012 on Hattie’s work, and there are a few editorial comments/changes. It’s a good article, and I suggest reading it. 

Here is the big snake of data: (click to enlarge)

hattie-ranking-influences-effect-sizes-achievement-rangliste

 

 

1. Self-report grades

Self reported grades with John Hattie from Cognition Education on Vimeo.

If some of the systems in place in the positive zone on the lower rungs of impact aren’t in place, does this impact the upper rungs?

John Hattie’s Summary: Know thy impact from Cognition Education on Vimeo.

Well, ultimately, his message is clear: allow for risk and listening. I would add one other factor which I am not sure he addresses, and that is student influences on one another. Perhaps he does, but it’s not clear where it is in the data belt.

Overhearing students tell another to “not to do the work,” and adding that peer pressure and ridicule their friends when they do like school is HUGE. Perhaps this is covered under another of Hattie’s data point umbrellas, but in middle school where friendship and belonging are the rings that rule them all, it’s something to be mindful of. Students work ethic is affected by their peer groups, and using that knowledge to move the momentum back to achievement (it’s cool to be smart/gain knowledge) is a value that can help all students.

What’s your take away from Hattie’s work? Is he just another educator trying to sell a program? A scholar supporting important messages? I value the focus: the intentional focus on not getting spun out by the distractions or misdirections in educational conversations. If meta-analysis provides evidence of key educational concepts that have the greatest impact, then those focused conversations may be of great value.

I believe the larger vision is to align his work with those of our PLCs, so I plan on giving this some thought. It took my group about five collective hours just to agree on what a good summary is, but I have hope. This means we’re truly thinking and evaluating, and not taking things at surface level. (My mantra: ‘retell is not a summary…retell is not a summary….retell is not a summary’). One thing I do know is we’re a pretty savvy group of educators, and we’ll figure it out. This gives us some clarity, and what to reprioritize.