skill building

Where to Put my Effort and how to Assess

We are teachers are going to send 90% of our efforts towards students who AREN’T as likely to succeed. The student whom have good study skills, get homework done on time, do homework and assignments well, and contribute to the class could learn everything themselves. They don’t NEED help. We aren’t here for them, we don’t differentiate or skill-build for these students. They will already be successful in the classroom.  We do all these things for the students that aren’t as likely to succeed. Students that don’t complete their homework, don’t do a proper job of assignments, don’t listen to feedback they are given are the ones we will need to struggle to meet outcomes we set.

Personally I don’t think exams should be a thing we have.. or at least grade high. Inquiry project that receive multiple drafts, feedbacks, and skill-building sessions should be the major assessments. Students might not be great test takers or maybe they weren’t able to sleep last night. Every person who’s gone through school has taken an exam that they bombed due to whatever reason. This is not proper assessment of learning. If students truly did bomb a major assignment, I will give them the option to re-write it (or something similar).

In my assessment plan for one of my courses, I made an end goal of a unit being a dialectical thinking essay. My instruction and assessments for learning were based on skill-building, how do write an essay, how to source, and how to support an argument. They first do a one page outline worth 2%, then a rough draft of their essay worth 10%, then a final essay worth 23%. If they don’t do a good job of their final essay, they are permitted to re-write it. The grade of this final essay will be made up of the average of both essays (Essay 1 gets 40%. Essay 2 gets 80%. Students get a total of 60%). Late marks and Zeroes depend on the school policy and the students themselves. Shape your teaching and policies to your students.

Personally I want students have every assignment I give them completed it (and passed) in order to pass my class. If they fail an assignment they can re-do it. If they don’t complete their work the day it’s due, they can stay in my class during lunch and/or after-school to finish it and for my feedback.

When I was in my preinternship, my expectations shifted a bit and I received a small reality check. Due dates are for my convenience and it’s convenient for student to hand in their assignments, but students have lives, problems, and every student is different. I myself have a learning disability. My assignments are almost never on time, yet I can often hand in high quality work. One of my essays is the example for the entire geography. We as teachers are there for the students, and I’d rather be welcoming for students to hand the assignment in late rather than work my butt off tracking them down and giving them anxiety about doing their work and potentially arriving in class.

I also learned when to give this 90% to other students. I had the joy of teaching a modified math class and some students would not do work unless I managed to sit beside them the entire time. Some of my students arrived at school only 25% of the time and when in class, would not do work no matter how hard I tried to assist them (I tried all approaches in doing this). I instead made sure these students know for a fact that when they are willing to receive help, I will be willing to help them. Some students just need a small push to stay or get on task. If you read my classroom placement blog article, I learned to place my students who need this small push or supervision in the most accessible parts; the front and sides where I can walk to the best. 

How to Assessment

I’ve learned how to properly assess my students. An easy way to accomplish this is to use backwards design. The first step of backwards design is the outcomes, the second step is the assessment. The last step is the content. This is backwards from how teaching worked in the past; where we focused on the content. Before we might have dealt with a lot of content when teaching a worldview. But how does some facts and a multiple choice test truly affect if a student understands worldviews? This helps keep us organized and on-task with assessment.

I’ve altered my own lesson plan template to include three more steps:

Fourth: Checks and Balances – I basically ask myself why I have what I do in the above, how I plan to accomplish it, and why I will accomplish it this way.

Fifth: Targets – I write down a target or two to improve my teaching skills, and how and why I plan to accomplish it. These have proved instrumental in improving my practice

Six: Reflection – Reflect on what happened, what went well, what did not go well, and why for all of this.

I have learned to organize my thoughts and debate on what is important based on my beliefs, the curriculum beliefs, and the school’s beliefs. Many schools focus on graduation rates now and it’s actually a Saskatchewan goal to up the rates, so this will change how I assess, what I’ll assess, and how to grade it.

Overall I’ve learned to spend my time giving students a positive environment and not shunning them for failing to complete the work (on-time). Looking back, I was (and still am) that student. The only reason I’m not punished as severe is because I have was lucky enough to get diagnosed with a learning disability.