hiking boots – chapter responses.

Chapter 1

This chapter provided a great introductory into the ideas of assessment and evaluation. I am not yet a teacher, nor have I done my internship, so I don’t have a lot of experience with assessment. To be honest, I knew that assessment wasn’t for marks and evaluation was, and I knew the difference between formative and summative… But that is about it! Needless to say, this chapter gave me a lot to think about!

I thought the distinction made between assessment and evaluation was very helpful. One being assessment for learning and the other being assessment of learning. I feel like classrooms don’t assess for learning enough. After reading this chapter, I realize how important that is, not just for the students, but also for your own teaching. I think a lot of teachers do not take the time to pause and assess their teaching by student learning, which is really beneficial for professional and personal growth. As a teacher, I hope to consistently reflect on my own teaching, and assessment is a great way to do that.

As for the implication for students in this chapter, there are many. The chapter talks a lot about involving students in assessment – inviting them to be part of the process. I have had many university classes where I have had a say in creating the rubric, which has been so useful for providing direction. However, I don’t remember a single high school class where I was involved in assessment. I can imagine how empowering that would be. Students are given ownership of their own learning, and with explicit guidelines and criteria, they learn to self-assess and assess others. Further, teaching students to self-assess and assess others according to a set of criteria gives them opportunities for way more feedback. This feedback, in turn, helps them to improve and set new goals.

Like Stacy, I am interested in learning more about descriptive feedback and assessment FOR learning. I think the rewards are huge, and I am curious about ways to best implement this kind of assessment into my own classroom – what kind of procedures would need to be established and what kind of time commitment things like self- and peer-assessment take.

Chapter 2

The Hiking Boots section at the end of this chapter ask the reader to reflect on a time that they’ve learned something successfully. For me, one memory that comes to mind was learning the format of a 5 paragraph essay in grade ten. Now, I know there’s a lot of controversy around the tyranny of the 5 paragraph essay, but it was something that most grade ten students spend a lot of time on, and something that I learned, for the most part, successfully.

I remember beginning  thesis statements. We did a lot of think-pair-share, which was a non-threatening way to begin something that we were unfamiliar with. My teacher was encouraging and approachable and she constructed an environment that was safe. After doing thesis statements, we were given templates, and also a wide variety of sample essays. We talked about strengths and weaknesses of the samples, and we also creating our own samples together as a class. By the time we had to write our own 5 paragraph essay, it was really only the next step after all of the pre-work we had done. The transition was smooth (for me, I cannot assume that for all students).

For my own classroom, I want to establish a relationship and environment that  is similar. I think students learn best when they know you care. They become willing to try things they’ve never done before when you become their partner in learning, not just the authority. Giving students lots of opportunities to think in pairs or small groups gives them a chance to hear feedback from others, not just yourself. Also, giving them samples and having them pick out elements that make those pieces strong helps them establish what a good paper is, without you having to dictate. Finally, the scaffolding that my own teacher provided set us up for success. We had lots of opportunities to practice and get feedback from our peers before having to complete an assignment on our own and everything built up to the end goal. I think there are a variety of ways that you can create opportunities for students to get feedback for themselves, and it just depends on your group of students and your own teaching orientation. Nonetheless, those opportunities are critical for learning and improvement.

Chapter 3

Last semester, I took an Ed Social Studies class where we talked a lot about backward design and beginning with the end in mind, as this chapter discusses. We used the Understanding by Design templates to draft units that were focused on the big ideas and essential questions. This was such a helpful exercise for summarizing learning goals, and deciding the destination. We took outcomes right from the curriculum and created a graphic organizer that divided things into understandings, essential questions, knowledge and skills. This becomes a clear assessment guide, as you have established exactly what it is you are looking for. I have attached my template: ESST 300 UBD. Sorry, for the weird formatting, for some reason it doesn’t begin on the first page.

Chapter 5

I remember last semester in ELNG 300, we were given the phrase, “triangulation of data,” and none of us really knew what it meant. Now, having read this chapter, it seems almost silly that we were at such a loss. This chapter talks specifically about the triangulation of observations of learning, products students create, and conversations with students about their learning in regards to assessment. These three sources of assessment have made me really carefully about how I will assess students in my own classroom.

A potential list of evidences of learning I’d like to use in my future class might include:

  • Process Portfolios
  • Journal Writing
  • Literature Circles
  • Dramatic Representations
  • Presentations
  • Research/Inquiry-Based Projects
  • Essays
  • Writer’s Workshop
  • Peer Feedback
  • Self-Assessment
  • Student/Teacher Conferencing

Obviously this list is limited, and I’ve never had a classroom of my own, so maybe I will find certain things on this list don’t work well for my students or other forms of assessment work better. However, I think the items on this list could showcase learning very effectively. A lot of this assignments give students room to express themselves, find their voice, and display what they have come to understand. These assignments and forms of assessment are varied – allowing for different learning styles and strengths. It’s hard to know if I’d be collecting too much or too little evidence because this is all hypothetical, but a reflective teacher will take the time to carefully these things for her specific group of students.

Chapter 6 

This chapter focuses on including your students in classroom assessment.  In the past, teacher have been mostly responsible for criteria and assessment. This chapter reiterates the importance of involving students in both criteria setting and the actual assessment. For starters, having students set criteria lets the teacher know how much the student actually knows beforehand not only about the content, but also about assessment. For example, if students can give you very detailed and clear criteria of what makes a good presentation – it is obvious that they are familiar with the expectations.

Further, when you co-create criteria with students, you allow them to take ownership over their own learning. You become more a facilitator than an authority. Students decide what they think is important to be graded on, thus making the assessment more effective and authentic.

Again, I don’t have a classroom of my own, so I don’t have first-hand experience with some of these things. However, we co-created a rubric for our presentations in this class according to the suggestions in chapter 6. It was a tedious process, but I understand that it is something that gets easier with time. I think involving students in assessment is an uncomfortable process at first, but in the end, it changes the way that student’s think about their learning.

Chapter 7

I feel like learning can look differently in different contexts. There is not one way to learn. However, I think that when students are truly learning, they are engaged and excited about the material they are working with. Even if they do not love the subject, you have found ways to relate the subject matter to them in a way that is authentic and meaningful. And, as this  kind of learning takes place, it is not teacher-directed, simply teacher-facilitated.

I also think the best learning takes place when students understand what it is that they should be learning. This comes back to Understanding by Design’s idea of backwards planning. You, as the teacher, must know where you want to end up before planning daily activities and assessments. Then, your students should also know that information. This means you must be explicit and direct about your learning goals throughout your unit. Students will rise to meet those expectations if you make them explicit and engage them with the material.

Further, the more I learn about assessment and evidence of learning, the more I believe that student involvement improves learning. In my classroom, students will have a say in assessment. Giving them that sense of ownership allows them to set goals and self-monitor. Students that have learned about monitoring their own learning will carry that with them as they learn throughout their lives. This is at the heart of curriculum within Saskatchewan – we want to create life-long learners. I think students deserve every opportunity to cultivate that love for learning and you as the teacher hold a lot of responsibility for that.

Chapter 8

Chapter 8 discusses collecting, organizing, and presenting evidence. This is such a vital piece when talking about assessment. There are so many different ways this could be done and every teacher has a different way of doing things. One thing that is stressed in this chapter, and throughout the book, is involving students. I think this is so important. Learning needs to be authentic for students. They need to feel a sense of ownership over what they do, including how they choose to showcase their learning. They also need to have a variety of ways to evidence their learning so that the assessment is genuine.

For an English class, I love the idea of a writing portfolio, both process and progress. This semester, Val had us do a process portfolio for ELNG 351. We did various writing activities throughout the semester to put in our portfolio. We also chose certain pieces to peer revise and publish. For me as a student, this was an awesome learning experience. There were so many choices with writing assignments, and many that allowed for a lot of personal expression. I also think the the folder as a whole, because of the varied evidence, expressed who I was a writer and as a person.

I would love to use writing folders/portfolios in my own classroom. I would have loved to do them in my pre-internship, but it didn’t work with the schedule that my co-op had set out. However, in the future, it is a means of assessment that I would love to utilize.

Chapter 9

Chapter 9 considers communication about learning between students, teachers, and parents. I think this is a really important thing to consider, as the chapter points out – life and families are more complicated and busier than ever before, making it difficult to communicate regularly and effectively.

I just did my pre-internship at Martin, and to be honest, generally speaking, parents were very uninvolved in the entire schooling process, including communication about learning. However, I went out of my way to communicate with students about their learning. We used self assessment and conferences on one of our major assignments, that laid out the criteria for the students before they even began. We also had them in turn in a literary paragraph, but then marked them as drafts and students had conferences with us to discuss the things they struggled with. Even if it is difficult to get parents involved, it should be fairly easy to include students, as you are seeing them every day. There are so many opportunities to communicate with them about their own learning. Self assessment is a great way to gage what they learning, as is having them hand in multiple drafts and giving them an opportunity to revise/improve.

The ideas in the text for communicating about student learning are great. I think that student involvement cannot be undervalued when creating a classroom that values authentic assessment. I am looking forward to implementing these ideas when I have my own classroom.

Chapter 10

Assessment and evaluation is one thing I am most nervous about as a teacher. I want to be able to implement it in a way that is effective and useless. This text has given me tons of great ideas and caused me think seriously about assessment, but more so about learning and the various forms it can take.

Pre-internship flew by, and we didn’t have a lot of opportunities to assess students. We did, but not the extent set out in the text. There are multiple steps to good assessment, and it some of those steps need to be taken at the beginning of a semester with students. It is difficult to take over teaching for somebody else for a short period and completely change the way students are being assessed.

However, when I move on to my pre-internship and then my own teaching career, assessment and evaluation is something I would like to continue to work on. In fact, for ECS 350, we have to do a professional development plan and I’ve chosen to focus mine on assessment. I think assessment that accounts for genuine learning and leaves lots of room for student input and involvement is essential to good teaching. I don’t have a lot of experience with assessment at this point, but as learn more about it, I am intrigued by all of the ways it can be truly successful.

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