Some reflections on assessment

 

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I recently embarked on a learning journey on assessment in mathematics for my TLLP project. The goal of our project is to create a school-wide approach to assessment with a focus on mathematics.

It has been very interesting to collect data and observe and listen to my colleagues about assessment. Many concerns that they have I also have had for many years. These questions centered mainly around using learning goals successfully and around turning our conversations and observations into quantitative data to give to parents.

Recently, we had our assessment coordinator Kristen Clarke come in a start the conversation going. During this time we talked about what learning goals are, the board’s pedagogical model and then how we as teachers have been assessing. It was great to converse with my colleagues and hear what they had to say.

As I mentioned before the conversations centered around using our observations and conversations as marks. This got me thinking. I think we need to give ourselves the permission to use conversations and observations. I think that for the longest time we have seen assessment as evaluation only and that evaluation met some sort of quantitative number. But is that really true? Does evaluation have to be a quantitative value or is a comment just as evaluative as a mark?

I think as educators we have to get more use to using our comments and observations as proof that children are meeting standards. That when truth be told they hold more meat than a mark ever would. In Ontario, we have an assessment document called growing success. Personally, I think this is an amazing resource that discusses our three focus points for evaluation is through products, observations, and conversations. If you look at the mathematics this means observations and conversations take a 66.6666% of evaluation and that product is just 33.33%. It means that our observations and conversations we have with students mean more than what they produce on paper.

So the question that I have is, why are we so invested in the mark? Or feel that observations and conversations are not tangible enough for us to hang our hats on?

For me, there is more to assessment than evaluation and I think we as educators need to think more about that thought. In addition, assessment needs to be more than just giving students feedback. It needs to be embedded into everything that we do. It needs to be responsive and it needs to be reflective. As a school-wide approach, it is important that we have honest conversations about the importance of assessment and what role it plays in our school community. I know that my journey has just begun so stay tuned as we as a school and me personally delve more into our learning.

I would also love to hear your thinking about my questions or just your thoughts about assessment.

Every Child Wants to Learn and be loved

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This is my daughter. If you have read my blog before then you know that Izzy isn’t always this smiley happy go lucky kids.  In fact, she is one of those kids that we often cause us the most stress as teachers, “the problem ones.” I know we all have them but it wasn’t until having Izzy that I finally have started to understand what to do.

Like many of us, I use to feel that classroom management was as simple as setting the rules and following with consequences.  Any child that couldn’t follow these rules were just difficult kids and needed a stronger hand of authority or stronger consequences. Then we had Izzy and boy were my eyes opened wide.

When we have these students we have two ways of approaching them. I know that we all have students like Izzy and we all welcomed them to our classrooms. We all love our students as our own but some try us more than others.

As I said we have two approaches. 1) Continues to keep that strong hand. You may talk to students but this is the rules and you better follow them or 2) Think about who these students are and why they are misbehaving. I titled the blog every child wants to learn and I will follow through with every child wants to behave if they know how.

Now you may be saying wait a minute if parents do their job then shouldn’t they know how to behave? Well parents do, do their job and students are learning but for many, they just lag those skills. I know I am very guilty of putting the cart before the horse and thinking that all kids should behave. I use to look at each kid the same. If they couldn’t handle routine then they were a problem and needed a strict hand.

As a parent I am slowly learning this doesn’t work. And as an educator, I am really seeing the benefits of understanding all of our kids. I think we need to make sure that we really get to know our students. Do we need to recognize what makes them tick? What makes them angry? What makes them happy? And how do they learn?

I have seen it with my own daughter. She may do things that you look at her and say she must be.doing this on purpose but in reality, she has no clue. No matter what the age is most of our students are the same.  Kids need to be taught socialization.

This year I have tried very hard to know my students. We have started you matter board, where we give compliments and talk about what makes us happy, we have community circles to discuss problem-solving strategies and ways of talking to one another and I listen to them to see what the real problem are. I feel that because I am able to recognize the problems I am able to divert them before they happen. Even better yet because they rarely blow up we have been able to talk about dealing with them so that they have started to self-regulate. Even better than that if they do blow we have a connection that I can easily diffuse and then talk. It’s really great having this type of relationship with your students.

So has we embark on a new year think about how you interact with your students. Think about what our ultimate goals are for the punishments and ways we interact. Think about the good in every student. Think about my daughter Izzy, who yes is lacking many social skills but there are reasons. Think less about, “oh they are a problem, and more about man they are really funny students.”

I hope your year is filled with happy children and amazing adventures.