Thursday, May 1, 2014

Assessments and Feedback

     I have learned and taken away a lot of information from the reading that I have done.  One major change (that hasn't been very easy for me) that I have made in the classroom is to NOT grade everything that the students complete.  Formative assessments are done daily in my classes.  Prior to reading this text and others, I found myself correcting and putting a grade on everything done in class.  Not only have I now stopped grading all assessments, but I have also taken a closer look at how I give feedback to the students.  Rather than making corrections for them, I will mark the area of concern and have the kids find and fix their own mistakes.  I try to give written and oral feedback to the students by writing comments on their work and also by talking with them.  On formative assessments, I have been watching more closely for progression towards proficiency before putting a grade on an assessment.  I still do grade formative assessments, but wait until the students are comfortable with the area of study.  For example, I will  introduce them to a skill and visit with them to see if there is any prior knowledge on the area of study--this gives me an idea of where to begin.  We continue practicing (formative assessments not being graded) until I see enough progress with the students and each one lets me know that they are comfortable enough to start actually putting a grade on their work.  As they practice, I try to be clear and concise on feedback and have them be sure to let me know of any issues.  I  typically grade two to three formative assessments prior to giving a quiz or test. 
     With these changes in my teaching, I feel that the kids are learning more due to continuing improvements in their performances.  I see progression at all levels of learning even with students who may struggle academically.  Lastly, I have learned that communication is key.  My students have become more comfortable knowing that they can openly address concerns in class.  I ask them to tell me if they need me to move at a slower pace or spend more time on a specific lesson.  Some have also asked if I could use a different approach on how I am teaching them.  If some students grasp the concept more easily than others, I will have them work with those who need extra help.  These students may explain the lesson in a manner that enables the others to see the material from a different perspective. 
     After being involved in the book studies, I feel that I have been paying more attention to how I teach and how the kids learn and also to what works and what doesn't work.  I have a more open line of communication with my students who have, in turn, made me more focused on them.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Formative Assessment--Spanish One and Spanish Two

For this formative assessment, the students were given a list of ten locations that were covered in the last two chapters of  this unit.  To review recently studied verbs, each student had to write two activities that could be done in each place.  The students were not allowed to use any verb more than once, so they also had to recall verbs from previous chapters.  Of all my Spanish One and Spanish Two students, very few had any mistakes.  There is no need to reteach the material, so the next step will be an enrichment activity.  For each location listed, the students will use there assessments to then write a complete sentence about the activity using the verbs that they have chosen for each location.  This will not only reinforce the verb definitions, but will also allow them to use each verb correctly in a sentence.  They will also need to use additional vocabulary to form complete thoughts.   Writing sentences and short paragraphs allows the students to see the verbs used in context and will help to reinforce the meanings of the verbs and how to conjugate them correctly.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Reflection on Grading

     There are several areas of teaching that I am working on adjusting after reading about the "fixes" in grading.  The two main things that I  have really considered changing are using extra credit points in grading and not giving zeros.  From one to the other, I have realized that giving extra credit or a zero does not give a true reflection of a student's grade.  I have always offered extra credit (related to the content being covered) to challenge those who choose to do so.  I have certain students who almost always do the extra credit work and others who almost never choose to do it.  Those who do not choose to do the extra credit are showing me the true picture of where they actually are in terms of learning.  With that, I am gradually pulling away from offering extra credit.
     The second "fix" I am considering changing is give a zero for incomplete work.  I usually put in a zero instead of an "I" for incomplete assignments.  Once the work is turned in, I replace the zero with the points earned.  The students seem to respond more quickly to completing the work when they realize how the zero is affecting their grade.  I only give a zero (that remains in the grade book) on assignments that a student refuses to do.  The concept of not giving a zero is one that will take some "getting use to" as it is something that I am not entirely "sold on".  After visiting with several students about these "fixes", they have shared with me that it would affect how they approach studying and preparing for class.  Of the many "fixes" in this text, these are two that have made me consider changing how I grade.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Grading "Fix #2"

     After reading Chapters one and two in Ken O'Connor's book entitled A Repair Kit for Grading: 15 Fixes for Broken Grades, I found fix number two to be one that I have given considerable thought.  It has made me view how I grade late work and implement some changes that I have made to help support students rather than give reduced grades or a zero on late work.
     When I first began teaching, I was fixed on set manners of grading.  Of course, many of those were followed by me in high school and college.  Responsibility was always something to consider when completing and turning in assignments on time.  If work was not handed in on time, the result was a reduced or failing grade.  For students who were concerned about their academic performance, turning work in late wasn't an option.  For others it may have set them up for failure.  Considering these two situations and listening to the good points that were brought up during our class discussion, I now have some different thoughts on how to deal with "late" work. 
     Students learn at different rates and may need more time to complete their work and master certain concepts.  Prior to the reading and discussion, I went from "no work equals a zero" to dropping the score on the assignments by 25% per day until it was turned in--with day four being an automatic zero.  By allowing students to take a zero or reduced grade, I have realized that I am not able to note improvement or see if the students are mastering the concept being taught.  I have since allowed them to turn in work within a given period of time.  If they turn something in "half" finished, they will get it back to fully complete.  The students are starting to realize that "half" isn't good enough for me and shouldn't be for them either.  Some would agree that this isn't teaching the students to be responsible as deadlines will more than likely be a part of their future whether it be in college or in their jobs.  I feel that if a student is working on mastery of a concept, and needs more time, that they should be able to have extra time to promote learning and mastery of that particular skill.  I have visited with my students about turning work in on time.  I have told them that if their work is not turned in within the time frame given, they need to come in and finish it with me so I can assist them if needed.  Most have been very receptive to, and welcome the extra help.  One other topic that was discussed in class that parents and students may find beneficial would be to incorporate "timeliness" on report cards.  It could easily be added into the "comment" section so parents are aware if this is an issue with their child.
     Of the "fixes" that we have read about and discussed in chapters one and two, "fix two" is one that has truly made me reconsider how I have been grading late work.  It has not only changed my approach on accepting and grading late work, but also the manner in which I am supporting the education of my students.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Thoughts on Grading

     Based on class discussions and information from the text, Elements of Grading, I am attempting to try some different approaches to grading.  For most of my career as an educator, I have been completely set on the "total points" system of grading with no assignments weighted at a higher percentage than another.  I have attempted working with different rubric methods, with none that I have felt comfortable as far as accuracy and specificity.  Immediate and clear feedback is one strength of the use of the rubric manner of grading.  I have since tried different techniques of grading and have gone back to the "total point" method.  Now, after reading and discussing other approaches to grading, I am more open to trying different methods of grading.  Ultimately, I am hoping to develop (with the help of my students) a rubric or point system that will be more accurate, specific and timely for my students.  The goal that I am hoping to achieve is consistent and quality feedback for the kids.  I truly believe that the use of a rubric or point system will better "communicate grades in a manner that is more clear to students and parents" as stated by Reeves.  During class discussions it was made evident that "grades" on certain assignments can be deceiving to students and parents as to how the kids are performing on certain tasks. Using a different approach such as the 4-point scale would be much more clear to students and parents as it can explain exactly how the student is performing on certain tasks.  Another approach that I particularly like is the following from Reeves' text:

A=At least four assessments with a final score of 4 and two assessments with a final score of at least 3.
B=At least four assessments with a final score of at least 3 and two assessments with a final score of at least 2.
C=At least three assessments with a final score of at least 3.

This would allow me to present each student with a more clear picture of their progress.  My final thought following the reading and discussion deals with the idea of praising students for their effort and performance rather than their grade.  Students may not master a certain concept as quickly as another.  The progressive steps toward mastering a specific concept should be recognized.  Not only will this encourage the kids to continue working toward mastering the task at hand, it will also help them to stay focused on the outcome of being successful in whatever they do. 
     My current practices will continue to change.  I am hoping,with the help of my students, to develop a more clear, timely and accurate system of grading that will be beneficial to myself as well as to my students.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Rethinking Grading

After thinking more about how I grade, I realized that it may be more beneficial to allow the students to have more of a decision on how assignments are assessed.  I currently follow the "old school" methods and grade on total points.  I am now in the process of designing rubrics to allow the students to do more self-assessing than I had before.  I feel that if the students can actually "pick apart" their own work, they may be made more aware of the areas that they need to improve.  Likewise, I plan to have the students assess eachother's work, in hopes of having them help one another to improve.  Feedback is very important as well.  I choose to give the kids more time in class to work so that I can see the work being done.  This way I can try to give immediate feedback and can correct any errors as they may occur.  Asking the students for feedback on how I teach them has been helpful for me as well.  I have had some inform me that, at times, I may be going too fast for them.  Others have stated that more examples would be beneficial.  Getting this information from them not only helps me to improve my teaching methods, but also allows for them to know that they can feel comfortable coming to me.  After our class discussion, I have had my eyes opened to the many angles that grading may be approached.  The time that it takes certain students to learn a concept will obviously vary.  Do we give a zero on an assignment just because it takes one student longer to successfully grasp that concept?  I am timely in accepting  work from students.  I try to visit with each one daily to see how they are progressing.  I do give failing grades to students who have not turned in their work, but do allow them to hand in assignments for "late grades".  Many times the kids do not realize that they have not turned in their homework until I put a zero in the computer on their assignment.  Once they realize that the missing work is affecting their overall grade, they will turn in the assignment. I feel that they should be held accountable for their work and be responsible to turn it in on time.  However, if they are struggling to learn a certain idea, do I allow time for that?  If a student comes to me and lets me know that they don't understand the content being taught, I allow for more time to complete the work.  After reading the first two chapters (or the beginning of the first one)  my ideas of grading have changed.  I hope to continue to grow as an instructor and develop new strategies on how I teach and how I assess my student's work.  The reading of this text has enabled me to see just how much one can GROW!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Rethinking Homework

Changing Thoughts on Homework


                After our last discussion on homework, I have had my eyes opened to several things to take into consideration when assigning homework.  Homework should demonstrate learning.  Homework should be practice on content taught to the students.    Feedback on homework for the students is a must. Keeping these things in mind, I have changed my outlook on what types and how much homework is really beneficial to the students.

                Because homework should demonstrate learning, how much practice is really necessary?  I feel that if the homework, used as practice, is showing me that the students are learning do I need to assign so much for them to “practice” on?  Once they have shown me that they have grasped a certain concept, I now see extra homework as “busy work” for them.  Before our group discussions, I really didn’t think about the amount of unnecessary work that I have been assigning. 

                Feedback for and from students is very important as well.  I normally give necessary feedback to my students on their assignments, quizzes and tests.  One thing that will definitely change for me now is to get feedback from the STUDENTS.  Very rarely, until now, have I taken into consideration how the KIDS feel about how things are going for themselves or for me.  They are the ones who are doing the learning, so what better way for us to teach them, than to get their opinions on what is being taught, and how it is being taught?  I thought in our last discussion that letting the kids help write questions for quizzes was a great idea.  It involves them all in the learning process.  In the past, I have given small groups of students a choice of concepts that they need to re-teach to the rest of the class.  It gives them the opportunity to find a particular lesson that they maybe struggled with to “teach” to the rest of the students.  I have found this to be very helpful to the “teaching group”, to the “learning group” and to myself.  Watching them present the material that I have already shown them allows me to see how they present it from their own perspective.  I have even learned different approaches that make it easier to teach to the next class.  It is rewarding for the students and me as well. 

                Have my outlooks on homework changed?  I certainly feel that they have.  I now look at things from a different perspective when assigning homework.  How much is necessary for the students to demonstrate learning?  Is all of the repetition necessary?  Have I been allowing the kids to provide me with THEIR feedback?  These are some questions that I now pay more attention to than I have before.  I also feel that my ideas of homework will now be approached differently.