Tag Archives: reflection

The Only Assessment that Matters

Photo: Inverse #2

Inverse 2 – cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo by Andy Houghton

A fellow National Writing Project colleague and friend Paul Allison and I were talking once upon a time, when he posed a question very close to this, “In the end, self-assessment is the only assessment that really matters isn’t it?” That may not be exactly what he said, but that is how I like to remember it. Plus, it certainly captures the spirit of the brief exchange. The sentiment resonated so strongly with me it has remained ever since.

We all must live with ourselves an awfully long time, more than anyone else certainly has to live with us. That’s for sure. It is not uncommon for me share comments like these and stress the importance of reflection and self-assessment with my students.

A Brief Anecdote on Student Self-Assessment

A few years ago, I received the most remarkable student self-assessment I have ever read, as part of an end-of-semester writing portfolio. Also, I have to admit being a little disconcerted when I saw myself quoted in a student paper, but this student simply gets it and gets it on a deeper level than I ever would have imagined. It also seemed to highlight a lot of the issues that have been shared and discussed in this MOOC. Here is an excerpt.

Through the course of the year, I have been writing down bits of conversations, words, and tips that I have heard in English class. Some are funny, some are weird, and some really stick with me. On October 28th, you said, “[Self-assessment] is really the only assessment that matters.” Is it? Through the course of the year, I grew more and more at home with this statement. If I know I am doing the best I can, then everything else is secondary. “Any time you’re focused on the grade, you are off target,” you said on February 14th [and has] always been a hard concept for me to wrap my head around. Through the year, though, these quotes bloomed into significant meaning. Whenever I write, like now for instance, it needs to just be the best I can do. My goal is to make my point and prove it in my writing, not simply to reach 600 words. This is a way that I have grown as both a student and a person, because as my mindset in school shifted, so did my outlook on the rest of my life.

Keep in mind this is from a former ninth grade student. It remains my favorite, most fascinating student self-assessment I have ever received. It broke all expectations. In fact, reading something like this, written by a student, makes a lot of the slogging through drafts as an English teacher, a whole lot less daunting.

My Latest Plan for a Self-Assessment

I am about to wrap a narrative writing unit with my ninth grade students, which I have already mined for examples for Beyond Letter Grades. Heavily influenced by George Hillocks’ Narrative Writing: Learning a New Model for Teaching, I have been using a lot of the methodology outlined in that title ever since reading it.

Beginning with a pre-test audit to be written in a one hour class, students were given the following prompt right from Hillocks: Write a story about an event that is important to you for some reason. Write about it in as much detail as you can so that someone reading it will be able to see what you saw and feel what you felt.

This week students will submit their anchor summative assignment, which they have had a couple of weeks to develop. Later in the week, they will take the post-test, another hour in class writing task, with the same pre-test prompt. In between, they have completed a handful of what I like to call rehearsal assignments, practicing specific narrative techniques listed in this rubric, also something I have adapted from Hillocks.

I have deliberately kept only a handful of broad categories to be assessed. Using this rubric, I already scored the pre-test, and will also use it to score the summative narrative task and the post-test.

Prior to assigning the summative narrative task, I issued and reviewed the rubric with students, in an effort to key them explicitly into the skills and technique I am hoping that they will demonstrate, despite routinely highlighting them in classroom instruction and various reading selections.

Once they have done a round of peer feedback and submitted the summative narrative task and completed the post-test, I am going to have students conduct a self-assessment.

  1. I will ask each student to score their summative narrative task with the rubric, prior to submitting it.
  2. I will hand each student their pre-test and ask them to score it with the rubric.
  3. I will hand each student their post-test and again ask them to score it with the rubric.
  4. I will then ask them to write narrative feedback about the difference between the two scores, specifically focusing on what they have identified as improvement and why.

I am considering sharing the scores I gave each student on both the pre-test and post-test, and asking them to consider any potential discrepancies between their scores and mine, but I am still undecided on this point.

Turning Summative into Formative

Since I have students complete an end-of-semester writing portfolio, this exercise will be good preparation for a more general, reflective self-assessment that accompanies the portfolio, like the student excerpt included above. Keeping with a broader strategy of looping many of the tasks and skills over the length of the course, this narrative self-assessment becomes a rehearsal for the portfolio one.

All three assessments then become fair game for revision, thus transforming a summative assessment into a formative one. Students may choose which piece that they would ultimately like to include in the portfolio. Since each one is a story, it can become more difficult to decide which story they want to revise, develop further, and include as their best of the narrative bunch along with the other modes and genres that comprise the portfolio.

Coda

In the end, I am blending a number of concepts celebrated in this class in my teaching practice, sometimes in a number of simultaneous ways. Occasionally, I wonder if it can become too complicated for my students. However, the only thing I am truly concerned about is that students are able to learn, improve, and demonstrate their learning in a few different ways. This is also a message that I repeatedly try to impress upon them over the length of the course.

Attempting many alternative assessment methods requires a pretty substantial initial investment of time and energy in developing relationships,  setting expectations, and building trust. It may be a bit ambitious, but I can say that the results have been relatively successful, especially as I continue to refine and advance my reasons, approach, and methods.

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Getting Serious as a #SEACCR – Week 3 Reflections

Photo: Reflections

Reflections – cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo by Dead Habits

Use these guiding questions as you consider how you contributed to the learning of others:

Sharing Resources & Ideas

I have not been the best sharer of curated sources for this course, thus far. However, I suspect that may change in the coming weeks. There are a few projects that I might be able to offer assistance by sharing some known resources. So I suspect that I may be adding tot he Diigo group. Apart from the articles included in my annotated bibliography, I don’t believe I shared a lot of other resources. I have had my hands full trying to pursue my own line of inquiry.

Image: #SEACCR Tweeted Times newspaper

#SEACCR Tweeted Times newspaper – aggregating course activity

Still, I have been trying to continue to model different ways of archiving a lot of the Twitter chatter associated with class.  I do think that more frequent Twitter updates of the SEACCR Tweeted Times newspaper that I created a couple of weeks ago, from the list I created, might be useful. It is a much cleaner way to read the latest activity from the course. Plus, assigns a ranking of top tweets, based in part on retweeting. I have now automated a tweet promoting the page of collected #SEACCR tweets to be published daily at 4:00 PM Alaskan Time. This should anticipate our weekly Twitter chats, which is an active period for fellow classmates. I may need to adjust the time. That is another item on which I need to solicit some feedback.

I am not sure how much use others will find the Tweeted Times paper, but it is more an experiment. I will try to solicit some more feedback in the next Twitter chat. I think not publishing regular updates very likely left it a forgotten resource by many. Plus, it may have been just a bit too much for anyone new to Twitter. However, by now most of the participants have been tweeting with much greater regularity.

Impact

It is pretty difficult to discern the impact I have made by participating in this course and community. I like to think that I am having some, but I am definitely removed from the Alaskan cohort, no matter how much I might try to stay connected.

In some ways, I have had to begin burrowing in my own head a bit more, as I suspect many other participants, trying to fashion a path that I will begin to take for my own inquiry. Narrowing and focusing a question, while investigating what is already out there in the research community is time consuming. Focusing on my own concerns necessarily cuts into the time for sharing, exchanging, and engaging with the community. Similarly, contributions from others become less visible and harder to track. Again, as everyone begins to emerge with a clearer vision of what they are pursuing and where they are headed, I imagine opportunities will arise where a greater impact can be made.

One area that I continue to try and make an impact is through commenting and encouraging colleagues by reading and responding to their blog posts. I have also been tweeting when I comment, in hopes of encouraging others to read and comment on those posts as well. I am not sure that it is working, but it also serves as a record of my own activity for myself, which has been useful. That is a tip I would encourage others to consider doing too.

It is really interesting and informative to read others’ blogposts. Of course there is the benefit of reading about their evolving project, which should reassure anyone that they are not alone. Yet, I find there is a lot to be gleaned from how individuals go about posting, including content, structure, and style. My observations make me think more about how I blog, something I have been giving a lot of thought for the last few months, as I have been making a concerted effort to post daily during the work week and at least once over the weekend.

Tracking Twitter Activity

Keeping with the tradition of using Storify to highlight contributions to the weekly Twitter chat, Here are a few tweets and exchanges that characterize some of my contributions and conversations from the week. Storify is proving to be a really useful tool, far more than I previously thought. It is perfect for collecting and curating Twitter activity in a narrative way, which is useful for an open course like this that leverages Twitter use by participants.

by  – Mon, Sep 30 2013 16:46:55

Tweets of a #SEACCR – Week 3

  1. Finally getting to read some fellow #SEACCR people’s reflections. @fadwa has solid list of differences in ELA standards…
  2. Interesting thoughts about #SEACCR action research question by @barbradonachy differentiationdiary.wordpress.com/2013/09/20/new…
  3. Here are examples of how I tweet the blogposts both to promote the work of others, as well as track my own activity. It is an easy practice that others might find worth doing, as well.
  4. BTW If anyone wants to be added to the #seaccr list I made twitter.com/akh003/lists/s… just let me know – don’t know if I missed anyone
  5. This was an effort to ensure that I have all the #SEACCRs listed in  Twitter list, which I also use to generate the SEACCR Tweeted Times newspaper. The list seems appreciated and having an impact.
  6. I am thinking my #seaccr question will give me excuse to finally get @hickstro Troy Hicks’ new book – been wanting to get it anyway
  7. @akh003 That’s great, thanks. Is #seaccr a teacher research project? That seems to be what I am getting from the tweets.
  8. @hickstro @akh003 It is – a nine week experience to help teachers conduct research in their classrooms! #seaccr
  9. @ak_leeg @akh003 Sounds great! Please let me know if I can be of help… I am always interested in teacher research. #seaccr
  10. @hickstro @akh003 #seaccr we’d love for you to come in at 4:30 AKDT on Tuesday or Thursday with us! A wonderful group of AK teachers others
  11. As it turns out, Troy Hicks’ new book may not impact my inquiry as much as I originally thought. However, mentioning him did prompt a response, which may result in his participating in one of our upcoming Twitter chats which would no doubt benefit everyone. Hicks is a great ambassador scholar.
  12. Wondering if I can find any #seaccr literature on using Google Docs with students that isn’t propaganda, plenty on reader response grps
  13. @akh003 #seaccr I wouldn’t focus on Google Docs…that won’t be the end all – it will be the way you use it – your teaching strategies & Mgmt
  14. @ak_leeg I hear you, but I am interested in how the built in digital collaboration of GDocs changes the writing process for students #seaccr
  15. @akh003 #seaccr ah – well I’ll do some looking and see if I can find…I’m sure there are articles and conf proceedings. Tried Google Scholar?
  16. @ak_leeg Will do. Just starting the #seaccr hunting and gathering
  17. @JNUrain @ak_leeg Not quite. More interested in the tool’s impact on reader response groups and the writing process. #seaccr
  18. @JNUrain @ak_leeg Wondering what the impact actually is? Does that live interactive ability record comments and such help or hinder? #seaccr
  19. Here is a longer exchange around my inquiry that helped clarify and lead to an instructional video from Dr. Lee Graham. That in turn helped me identify a number of potentially helpful sources to read.
  20. @RazorMath @BarbraDonachy @ak_teacher I’m gatherin you all know the mother of differentiation in Carol Ann Tomlinson #seaccr – met her once
  21. @akh003 @BarbraDonachy @ak_teacher #seaccr – I didn’t, but I actually haven’t looked into anything. thanks! You just gave me some good info
  22. THis exchange was all about sharing knowledge and assisting a colleague with a potential resource.
  23. @fadwaedais So I am really fascinated what you find with this. I can tip you to a bunch of stuff that they have done in Australia #seaccr
  24. @fadwaedais You might want to take a look at the work of David Rose and JR Martin from Univ. of Sydney #seaccr – fascinating stuff as alt.
  25. Similarly, continuing to pass information that may be helpful, based on prior knowledge and project.

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Final Thoughts from the Week that Was

Ultimately, I was able to get a good start on gathering up some research material and articles. I still hope to dig a bit deeper into the roots of peer response groups, since that is a considerable foundation for my line of inquiry. I know from reading and experience that quality peer response groups are predicated on explicit teaching and practice. It takes time to cultivate practices and habits that are beneficial. My hope is to find some additional methods and strategies to improve the groups as well as glean insights into how Google Docs might be better leveraged in the process.