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Feedback Focussed Assessment - A New Hope

So, semester one has come to an end and it is time to reflect on my practice. It’s like cleaning off the make-up and seeing the real person underneath. It means that I have to face myself - the smile, the wrinkles, and the blemishes.

Starting with the ugly. This was a messy process. Anyone that says that going gradeless is easy is a gigantic LIAR. The process was a lot of work, more work than I have put into teaching in awhile - like rookie teacher starting from scratch kind of hard work. It meant rethinking why I used a lesson or activity, and what information and skills student’s needed to demonstrate their learning. Redesigning assignments, tweaking rubrics, adding layers of scaffolding, and helping students self reflect was time consuming - actually it grew into somewhat of a black hole. The constant conferencing interspersed with compact lessons and marking to provide better feedback created stress and tears for me. Frustration mounted and feelings of defeat grew until final asse…
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Reflecting on "Gradeless" Math - Modelling Life-Long Learning

This entry was originally published on my personal blog here.

As the title of this entry may suggest this entry is serving as a place to express my thoughts around how last semester went and the changes I am hoping to make. My desire is that this "public diary" will help me to be accountable to my goals, will inspire someone else to take a risk, and will model that we (teacher) practice what we preach - we are all learners.

What worked well that I will continue:

Having students engage in deconstructing curriculum (specifically the math processes and instructional language)Making students reflect on their learning (often!)Having a grounding document for evaluation (learning map with overarching learning goals)evaluation is based in criteriaHaving students analyze their evidence of learning to determine their grades (and conferencing about it)Constructing success criteria with studentsWhat I will strive to do better: Engage in curriculum deconstruction more frequently (not just a…

Seeking "Gradeless" Sanity

This entry was originally published on my personal blog here.

It has been awhile since my last entry. Life and work got a little overwhelming, in retrospect. The midterm part of the semester contributed to that (you can read about it here) on top of having 3 straight days of PL/a conference to attend to and I was well behind where I would have liked to be in terms of giving feedback to student. Summative evaluations began to pile up, the essentials had to be prioritized and returned first. No matter what anybody tells you, 84 students is a lot.

But too often this number of students for a secondary educator is a normal reality. So we need to make this better. We need to find ways to meet student's needs, give them the feedback they need and deserve, and still come out sane on the other side. I wish I could tell you that this reflection was going to provide you with the magic answer. But...I don't have it...


I am determined to find a way. I am determined to figure out how t…

Final evaluations: square peg in a round hole?

One of the best aspects of the TLLP is the ability of our team members to have release time to discuss our classroom experiences, to visit other schools and classrooms and to plan for what we will do in our classrooms. During today’s meeting, we all had a level of frustration around final evaluations. Every secondary school in the board has been helping teachers to revise and update their final evaluations so that they more closely meet our vision for empowering modern learners with “informative and purposeful assessment.” This has been a rewarding but also difficult process where all aspects of our final evaluations have to be examined, compared to a set of success criteria, and then revised to be more equitable, engaging and purposeful.

This revision process is not where I had frustration, however. It is the breakdown of marks between term work (70%) and final evaluations (30%). It’s hard to articulate the reasons why this doesn’t fit a feedback-focused class. It’s like a square pe…

Kids emailing their parents - who needs marks with that kind of feedback?

My role in our TLLP is different. I am an Instructional Coach, so I no longer have a class of my own. I will tell you about an experience I had, and a practice that worked well when I had my own classes. In my final years as a classroom teacher, I maintained a drastically reduced focus on grades, and had some great results with both students and parents.

I found that key to working with the parents was to give them some other type of feedback that they could understand and relate to. I did this by having the students email their parents every two weeks. This was usually a two paragraph email with the first paragraph outlining what was going on in the school. We usually brainstormed a few things that were going on in the building and the students could choose a few that were relevant to them -- or pick other ones. The second paragraph outlined what they were learning in my class. The learning goals were posted, so they could use these s a starting point. Students who wished to elaborat…

When giving feedback, relationships matter, but so does what you say and how you say it

"However, the thing that really matters in feedback is the relationship between the student and the teacher. Every teacher knows that the same feedback given to two similar students can make one try harder and the second give up. When teachers know their students well, they know when to push and when to back off. Moreover, if students don’t believe their teachers know what they’re talking about or don’t have the students’ best interests at heart, they won’t invest the time to process and put to work the feedback teachers give them. Ultimately, when you know your students and your students trust you, you can ignore all the “rules” of feedback. Without that relationship, all the research in the world won’t matter."
~from “Is the Feedback You’re Giving Students Helping or Hindering?” by Dylan Wiliam

This quote from Dylan Wiliam is resonating strongly with me today. As a team we spent today mostly looking at student self-assessment. We visited Jonathan So’s grade 6 classroom in t…

Reflections on Midterm Conferences in 9-10 Math

This post was originally posted on my personal blog here.

It has been an observation of mine that students are struggling to transfer the meta-cognition skills gained in other places into the math classroom. The ideas and structures I am putting onto their math learning seem to be very different than anything they have done in math before that they do not realize they have done it elsewhere. It has made for some interesting reflection on my part.

In continuing with my journey to explore student reflection I wanted to have students self-evaluate at midterm and conference with me to determine their report grade and report card comments. I set this up using an assignment on Google Classroom and had the sign up for a conference time-slot.

My grade 10s were given a reflection document that included a few things (outlined via images below).

Part 1: Identify pieces of evidence and start to identify criteria from the map that were evident in that evidence

Part 2: Highlight where evidence show…