Demonstration of Learning Interview

1. Philosophy of Assessment and Evaluation:

I believe that assessment and evaluation needs to be different for every student, and that there is no one-way to assess all the time. I also believe that the students should know exactly what and when they are being evaluated on. One of the most frustrating things I have experienced, as a student, is feeling unclear about assignments and exams and then realizing that I didn’t complete what the professor or teacher had wanted. I don’t believe that tests or assignments should be a surprise. Something I hadn’t really considered or thought about before this semester is the difference between assessment and evaluation. Assessment is gathering information about student learning, and we as teachers may teach differently based on what we find as we assess. Evaluation is when we decide whether or not students have learned what they needed to learn and how well they learned it. (Davies, 1)

After taking this class, I definitely agree that assessment should be happening constantly in the classroom to understand where the student learning is. Throughout my limited experience in the classroom, I have learned that regardless of what you have planned in your lesson outline and weekly plans it doesn’t mean that your students will achieve everything you have set out. That is exactly why it is so important to be always assessing your students to see where they are at because realistically, they will always be at different places at different times.

Student involvement is a large part of my assessment and evaluation philosophy. Giving the student’s choice is something that I believe goes a long way in regards to motivation and engagement. Davies outlines on page 5 how involving students can shape their own learning because:

  • Understand what is expected of them
  • Access prior knowledge
  • Have some ownership over making it happen
  • Be able to give themselves descriptive feedback as they are learning
  • Give information that teachers need to adjust their teaching

I think that the last bullet is extremely important, especially as an inexperienced teacher because we won’t always have the best lessons starting out, and it takes a bit of experimenting before we can see what works and what doesn’t work. Involving your students in this process gives them a sense of responsibility and confidence because if something isn’t working, then you as the teacher are flexible enough to make a change if possible. It also gives you the accessibility to be more on the same level as your students instead of you being the leader all of the time

Finally, differentiating assessment and evaluations are extremely important because every learner is so different, and therefore success looks different for every student. I have realized through my experience as a student, specifically in-group work, how differently success looks to each student. I have also realized in my field experience how each student has different strengths and weaknesses, and therefore need to have different ways of showing their success.

2. Describe how you used assessment and evaluation in your field experience.

  • Consider how you used formative and summative assessment

As mentioned before, my partner and I were not able to use a lot of our own assessment and evaluation practices during our placement, only because of bad timing in the unit plan. However, we were able to do a lot of formative assessment. We spent a lot of our time at the school reviewing essay writing, therefore a lot of the observation we did was formative assessment. The only formative assessment I was able to use was an exit slip during some spare time we had. Our class had been reviewing the novel and connecting different parts of the novel to the essay topics they were given the choice of choosing, so when I had some extra time left over in class one day I asked the students to write down on their piece of paper what essay topic they were considering, and why they think they could write an awesome essay about it. I was really surprised by their answers because I honestly thought that they were getting nothing from my lessons, and were annoyed because they were so repetitive. However, when reading the exit slips the student’s gave me, I realized that they were engaged because many students wrote down that they would use that topic because we as a class discussed specific examples from the book, and some even wrote down the page numbers they were on! I was amazed, and really happy because if I hadn’t assessed the students, even in that simple of a form, then I would have had no idea where they were at in regards to how prepared they were to write their essays. I felt after seeing where each student was at, that I could move on to the next step in the process.

  • What assessment tools you used,

As mentioned – the only assessment tools we were able to use was the exit slips. However, my cooperating teacher used a lot of Scantron sheets as a form of evaluation. I wasn’t completely sure how I felt about Scantrons because I remember using them as a student and hated them as there was no choice and often I received a very low grade, which wasn’t reflective of my actual knowledge. However, my coop still used it as a form of assessment because he often used them for grammar quizzed or “have you read the book” quizzes. They were still for marks, however he usually made these quizzes to be a low portion of their grade. It also was more so a form of evlatiation because the student’s were not able to re-do the quiz without coming to see him for extra help. For example, many of the students did very poorly on the grammar quiz and he gave the students the option of re-doing the quiz, only if they were willing to come after school or lunches for extra help. Only one of his classes took this offer up, and only a handful of students showed up for the extra help, so not everyone was given the opportunity to re-do it. He also didn’t give this option all the time, which is why I am unclear as to if it was an evaluation or form of assessment.

  • How you involved students in the assessment/evaluation process,

We spent a lot of our time while we were in our pre-internship teaching the students how to write essays. We did this by giving them a rubric that our cooperating teacher gave us that he was using to mark the essays, and we went through this rubric in depth with the students for many classes. The rubric was a really specific rubric that had examples of what each mark would get. For instance, for the title it had an example of what would be considered a title worth a full mark, an example of a title that would be considered a half a mark, etc. Our coop outlined the rubric like that for all aspects of the essay, so I thought it was a really great rubric. We also involved the students by having them mark a sample essay created by our coop from the rubric. They did this in partners for a class, and then the next class I projected the sample essay through the smart board and we went through as a class marking the essay, using the rubric as a check list to ensure that the essay followed the rubric and then I would get the students to tell me what mark they would give the essay, using the rubric. They students really enjoyed being involved in this activity because they knew they were marking their teacher’s essay so they took it seriously and really pulled it apart. I also think they really took a lot away from it, and am confident that almost all of the students can outline a five-paragraph essay easily.

  •  Differentiation and accommodations you made for equitable assessment/evaluation, etc.

I wasn’t able to witness a lot of assessment or evaluations; however, I must admit that I didn’t see a lot of accommodations made for the students. As mentioned before, all students were given the same quiz on in a very unforgiving format – Scantron. There was one EAL student in our class who really could have used accommodations, as they were still writing down their notes in Mandarin. This particular student also did very poorly on both of the Scantron quizzes that I witnessed and I felt as if there could have been some sort of accommodation.

However I must say that my coop did have a few different forms of evaluation and assessment because there was more than one way of assessing the students taken into consideration. For example, when we arrived the students were just finishing up some debates revolving the topics found in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. This debate was worth marks, and there were some students who really shined. Since we were relatively new at this point, we were not that familiar with the students so after discussing these debates with our coop, he told us that he was very surprised at how well some students did and how poorly others did. He said that one student in particular wasn’t that strong of a student on paper through writing, however doing this type of oral presentation, the student did extremely well. I realized being in the classroom how important it is to incorporate numerous ways of evaluating because each student shows strengths in different ways.

3. How closely did your assessment and evaluation practices in the field align with your philosophy?

I am not confident that I observed enough forms of assessment during the three weeks to say whether or not the assessment/evaluation practices aligned with my philosophy. I would say that I did witness a limited amount of differentiation in regards to evaluation practices, because we were able to only see oral and written evaluations. As mentioned previously, I wouldn’t say I am 100% comfortable with assessing students through a Scantron sheet because it is so limiting to their knowledge, however after experiencing it a few times I could see how I would use this as a form of assessment in certain things from time to time, definitely not all of the time. I also think that there was many times that differentiation could have been put into use in regards to certain EAL students. In my classroom, I would try to adapt the evaluations and assessments to help the EAL students succeed, and I don’t think that there was everything done to differentiate to suit their specific needs.

  1. Three key leanings you have taken away, and why will these three things be so important to your teaching practice?
  • Differentiation:

Throughout this semester and especially from my field experience, I have learned that differentiation in assessment and evaluation is so important. Every student has a different take on success in the classroom. I especially noticed this in the classroom because often the students who spoke up during class discussions answering my questions and prompts were more so the average students who did poorly on written evaltiatons or assessments. The students who were at the top of the class in regards to academics were very quiet and often never spoke up unless I called on them. I also noticed that the very strong students academic wise, also did very poorly on oral presentations and vice versa for the weaker students, who did quite well orally and very poorly on written. Therefore, it was such a great opportunity to learn how important differentiation is because all of those students were showing their leanings in completely different ways, and if they were only given one way of presenting their knowledge, it might not be an authentic showcase.

  • Descriptive Feedback

Unfortunately, I wasn’t given the opportunity to actually give my students descriptive feedback however I still took this part of assessment and evaluation as one of the most important parts. From class discussions, and from experience as a student myself I believe that instead of just slapping a mark on an assignment, you should be describing why and where the student succeeds, and where the student can still improve. Using a rubric is something I hadn’t really done before (as a teacher), but going through a specific rubric that outlines exactly where and why the students will get their marks made it very clear to the students how they can succeed.

  • Frequency

I think this aspect of assessment ties my first two key leanings together very nicely. For instance, differenation needs to happen all the time in order to get an authentic understanding of there the student’s are, as my example previously about the differences in the student’s understanding of the content when presented orally verses written. This differentiation of evaluation and assessment needs to happen more than just once because then the student has multiple opportune to show case their work. For example, if the students were only given the opportunity to be evaluated orally, then not all students would succeed. In regards to descriptive feedback, I think frequency definite ties into that well because if you are giving the descriptive feedback at the end of the unit where there is no oppoirtiny gor the students to improve is not beneficial for the students, nor for the teacher. Descriptive feedback needs to be given at multiple times throughout the unit because then there is the chance for students to succeed because perhaps they don’t even realize what they need to improve on. It was so interesting to read Beth’s blog post about her experience with descriptive feedback because it seemed as if it was very successful and she was very proud of it. I would love to use this during my internship in the fall.

With all of these learnings, I feel a lot more comfortable with the assessment process and am very excited to put these key elements to use in my own classroom.

Communication and Evaluating Learning

Chapters 9 & 10 in Making Classroom Assessment Work

Davies starts chapter 9 of Making Classroom Assessment Work out by discussing the importance of having an open communication system not only with your students but also with your student’s parents. She highlights the fact that many parents want to know what is happening with their children and their education, however many teachers struggle to find a successful means of communicating with so many parents with such different and complex schedules.

One suggestion she makes on page 86 is to involve students with the communication. I struggle with this solution because I personally see many challenges that may arise. The first being, what if the student doesn’t want to tell their parents about school? There are many children who leave school at school and don’t want to think about it again. There is also the issue of if there is a newsletter or questions that need to be discussed, there are some very disorganized children who will not have that paper in their hand for more than five minutes before it goes missing. There also is the issue of actually involving the parents. Unfortunately, there is always going to be parents who do not wish to be involved, or don’t have time to be involved. Even if the parents are willing to be involved with their child’s education, there is also the issue of time. What if their dad works out of town and doesn’t have time to talk about that specific topic, or what if the child has hockey right after school until late at night and they don’t get a chance to discuss the topics. Something I wonder about is whether implementing this communication strategy would still work if there were students who will not have any information or discussions at home involving their parents.

Going off of that point, incorporating technology would be a great idea in ensuring parents are involved as much as possible or as little as possible. Having a school website where information is posted, such as upcoming activities and due dates would be a great way of ensuring the parents that want to be kept up to date, can be. Also giving parents your personal email would be a good way of communicating because you can reply whenever you have a chance and vise versa. However, I have heard horror stories about teachers giving out email addresses to parents, so I guess I would need to get to know my students and parents before I went that far.

Davies then moves on to student-parent conferences, which is the best time for parents to see what their child has been doing. I think it is important to prepare for these with your students because it take some pressure off of you as the teacher, and it also gives students some initiative to take their learning into their own hands. During the conference, the parent will give feedback to their child and their child will hopefully feel very proud of accomplished. If needed, perhaps the parents could also set goals with their child involving the teacher to ensure future success as well.

Chapter 10 discusses in depth about evaluating and reporting of the evidence of the learning. On page 95, Davies says: “Evaluation is a process of looking at all the evidence, comparing it to the description and samples of quality and asking: Did this student learn what was to be learned? How well?” and then “To evaluate well, we should look at all the evidence – observations, products, and conversations.” This reiterates the point that you must collect numerous amounts of evidence over the process of learning, not just one because students learn in so many different ways and can accomplish success in more than one just way.

Not only is it so important to involve parents as much as possible, but as discussed previously in the book, it is also crucial to involve the students as well. If we involve students then their learning becomes so much more valuable because they get to learn about things that are important and interesting to them. This also will help in their understanding if they involved in the learning from the very beginning. If students learn how to successfully self-monitor, then they are well on their way of becoming life long learners.

In conclusion, I believe that the more parent involvement you can get in your classroom, the better. It will positively affect your student’s learning if they have a parent actively invested in their education, and it can also give parents a peace of mine because their voice will be heard about what they want their children to be learning.

Assessment Guiding Instruction & Presenting Evidence of Learning

Making Classroom Assessment Work – Chapters 7 & 8

When students come up with their own forms of assessment, it helps direct them into what they need to be doing. This also makes it easier for teachers because instead of telling your students what they need to do for you, it makes it more of a team effort in regards to what is important to every specific student and their needs or wants.

When we were trying to create a rubric in class on Thursday night as a group, I found it really challenging to create a rubric for something I didn’t necessarily know what the end result is supposed to be. I understand that we are supposed to be coming up with the rubric therefore we are essentially creating the project, however in my mind I am so set in my way of reading a rubric and having it already set out for me about what the end result needs to look like, therefore I am not used to having choice. I honestly didn’t know last night what I wanted in the rubric because I was so focused on what it was supposed to look like to Rhonda.

On page 66, Davies discusses the idea about adding ideas to class lists and rubrics as their skills increase. I think this is a great idea because creating a rubric can be very challenging or overwhelming when first starting out, so after looking at it a few times it could be beneficial to add things once students have a more clear understanding about what they actually want on the rubric. Giving the list or rubric to students after they create it will help them see and remember what they wanted in the project.

I also really liked Davies suggestion about after giving the students the rubric they created, as a check in during the project or assignment, have them highlight each word or phrase that was true or completed in their project at that point. (Davies, 67) This is a good way of quickly assessing your students to see what point they are at in the project.

This is also a way of accomplishing more differentiation in your classroom. Davies suggests on page 67 that most students should work towards all of the criteria, however a student with an IEP, they maybe could choose one out of the four areas of criteria to focus on instead of all. Then throughout the year, perhaps they can increase the focus areas depending on their progress.

Davies starts off chapter 8 by discussing how important it is to let your students know they have succeeded by their evidence of learning. This motivates them to keep trying and know they are on the right track. Having evidence of learning is so important because it is a visual trail of their learning. It can be really easy to involve your students in this process as well because if you just get your students to sign and date something then they can put it in their folder or bin and sort it at a later date. Perhaps once a month you can take a class to just organize their work so it doesn’t become so overwhelming at the end of the term. This will help disorganized students if you take time to do it together and it will also be more likely to be in one place if you keep it in the classroom instead of expecting them to carry it around with them.

In the end, it depends on your students and their learning needs to determine what type of evidence of learning they need to be creating over time. This is a great way of providing evidence of learning. If you are continually putting together a portfolio, if a parent ever wants to see what their child is working on currently, you always have something to pull out and show and explain what is going on.

Collecting Evidence of Learning and Involving Students in Classroom Assessment

Making Classroom Assessment Work – Chapters 5 & 6

Without a doubt, there is more than one type of learner. Davies begins chapter 5 by discussing that along with ensuring your students are learning in different ways through differentiation in your classroom, there must also be different types of evidence collected to show their learning that in different ways. Davies suggests, “Teachers need to make sure they plan to gather evidence from a variety of sources, and that they gather evidence over time.” (Davies, 45) Reading that immediately made me think about the portfolio process we are creating in our English class this semester. We are collecting evidence of our learning and participation through a portfolio that we will eventually put together at the end of the semester. I think this is a great way to showcase the learning that happened throughout the semester. It also is a good way to show participation in the classroom, such as feedback for peers worksheets or note taking during presentations. This is also a good way of showing your students growth, such as with drafts and rough copies of assignments to showcase how far they have come. I feel like a portfolio or something like this will be really easy to incorporate in an English classroom because there should be a lot of opportunity for creating pieces of learning through a lot of reflections and pieces of writing for the students to show.

The chapter moves on to triangulation (Lincoln and Guba 1984) process, which is something I would find very useful when trying to decide what sources of evidence would be considered reliable and valid especially as a new teacher with little experience. If I am unsure about what evidence I need for particular lessons, I would ask a respected colleague or someone I feed comfortable with whom I know has experience see what their opinion is about whether a particular piece of evidence is valuable or not.

Prior to teaching a lesson and after understanding the type of learners that you have in your classroom, you should try to create a plan in regards to collecting evidence. We as teachers need to make sure we are accounting for all learners to learn and also for all learners to show their evidence that they actually are progressing in their learning. Having lots of evidence backs you up as a teacher, especially when parent/teacher interviews come around. Personally, I feel like I would want to see various different types of examples of how my child is doing so I hope as a teacher I will have more than enough to show parents. Having lots of evidence backs you up because if their child is struggling with something then you have more than just one example of what they are struggling with. “You must have enough evidence to be able to identify patterns and trends in student learning”. (Davies, 51) This shows the parents what their child is excelling at and what they also need to work at. This also shows the parent that you as a teacher are actively involved in their child’s learning and are trying to help them be successful. It shows that you care about their child just as much as they do and are willing to help support their needs. I also believe that it is very important to always focus on the positives. No one wants to hear what their child is not doing well at, so always make sure you have lots of evidence of successful learning as well.

Something I thought about when reading this chapter was a lot about parent involvement, which is probably one of the most important reasons to have a lot of evidence to show (besides for you, as the teacher). If I was unsure of what type of evidence that they would most want to see, a possibility I had thought about was maybe sending an email or letter home at the beginning of the year (sort of like an introductory letter) and including the parents in the process. I would ask them what sort of learning they would like to see from their children, perhaps gives examples of how I will be assessing their children and ask which ones they value the most. This could also possibly be a way to see what the student need to work on, because a parent could have a perspective that you don’t have yet.

Ensuring that my students’ parents are involved with their learning, I would also try to involve the student not only in their learning, but also in their assessment. Davies explains why this notion is so important in chapter 6, “When students are involved in the classroom assessment process, they become more engaged in learning”. (Davies, 55)

This allows students to share their ideas and have their voice heard. This is beneficial for you as the teacher in more than one way; for example when involving students you get to learn more about your students and their knowledge and understand what is important to them. Because this engages your students by creating a feeling of ownership, it also helps the teacher identify what the next steps will be in their teaching.

As Davies has discussed in previous chapters, she reiterates her points that students need to be given very specific and descriptive feedback and need examples to see and touch in order to see what success may look like.

On page 59 Davies talks about letting students evaluate their peers because it models how to give constructive feedback. However, I thought this could possibly be problematic. Personally, when I was in school I would have preferred to keep my work private and felt more comfortable if only the teacher saw what I was writing or doing. It could be problematic because not every student may take it seriously, or actually put the amount of effort in to give specific feedback. I also think that since it is peers giving peers the feedback, students may be more sensitive from feedback from peers just because it may feel more personal. Davies also suggests this idea because it would also cut down time spent marking and grading, but personally I would have to have a lot of trust in my students for me to let them peer evaluate because I would feel like I would have to go over the assignment or project over again to ensure the students were marked fairly and appropriately. Perhaps if the students’ work was made to be anonymous this could be more successful.

Lastly, Davies suggests setting goals with students because it is linked to more motivation. I think this would be a great idea for certain students because many would feel motivated by it, but others may view this activity as just another chore, or school requirement. Setting personal goals with students who need the motivation may be more valuable to do privately because when they do succeed it would feel as if more of a personal accomplishment.

These are all great ideas that Davies talks about, but I must admit I do feel quite overwhelmed. “The ideas themselves are simple, but the implementing of them in today’s busy classrooms will take some time”. (Davies, 61) It seems as if there are so many aspects to creating a successful classroom with successful students, and I hope I will be able to implement the correct tools to ensure this happens. I am sure it will take a lot of mistakes in order to figure out what works for my students and also what works for me.

Creating Student Goals and Describing Success

“Making Classroom Assessment Work”, Chapters 3 & 4

What do I want my students to learn? This is a question that Davies poses as she starts chapter 3 titled “Beginning with the End in Mind”. In Saskatchewan, we have it outlined in the curriculum specifically what our students should be learning. “Standards and learning outcomes provide both opportunity as well as a challenge.” (Davies, 25) With that being said, this chapter outlines the complications that arise when students don’t fit that model or on the same learning levels as their peers.

The first thing that came to mind when Davies discussed the different ranges of expertise each student would have when they enter your classroom was an EAL student. These students are absolutely going to be in your classroom at some point in your career. I would argue that it is even inevitable because of the increasing rate of immigrants to our melting pot of a country in all areas – the cities, rural schools, different provinces, etc. As a pre-service teacher without a lot of experience teaching EAL students, I wonder as I read this chapter if it is only my job as the teacher to implement routines and differentiate for these students, or are there teams of people to support me as a teacher and the students as learners? I worry about this in an English classroom because I would find it very difficult to teach English literature to someone who doesn’t actually speak the language.

Davies then goes into discuss the importance of syllabus’s, which I absolutely agree. I did not have a lot of syllabus’s in my classrooms as a high school student, but I very vividly remember in grade 12 when I took a creative writing class, my teacher wrote out a complete syllabus with the assignment descriptions, as well as the weekly plans (didn’t always go as planned, but had an idea of what each week would aim to look like) and I absolutely loved it. Obviously being a university student, I get tons of syllabus’s each semester, but I really appreciate the good ones and I will take bits and pieces from each one from what I found helpful. “[W]hen we know what we’re going to be doing, we mentally prepare ourselves and activate more of our brain by doing do. Once students know what they are supposed to be learning, they can self-monitor, make adjustments, and learn more.” (Davies, 26)

I found an interesting idea on page 29 when there is an example of where a teacher decided to design his syllabuses around each unit, so breaking it up so that it wasn’t so overwhelming. I can see how it can be valuable for your students. It breaks things up for them, so they aren’t seeing everything at once. Personally, I will write things in my agenda and will stress about them and try to get them done early on and will be anxious about it until I am done, but getting things done that in advance and worrying about them may not be a good thing. If the students can only see what needs to be worried about for that specific unit then it can make it less overwhelming for students as well as easier fro you as a teacher (especially as a new teacher) to create.

Leading into the next part of this chapter, Davies discusses not only having a detailed outline, but also lots of examples. I definitely agree because I love examples. I am such a visual learner and have a really hard time reading a description about something and then trying to do it without a visual. “If students don’t know what they are to learn and what it can look like, they are handicapped and their success is at risk.” (Davis 28) I still struggle with this issue, and recently have had some presentations and assignments where I had no visual and would have loved to actually see other people do it first so I had more of an idea of what is expected. Showing your students how you are planning on evaluating their work will also help the students understand what they did do and didn’t accomplish, and what they need to work on for next time. This will also back you up as a teacher by making it easier for you to grade your students because you can specifically point out what they didn’t accomplish if they ask you or if their parents want to know.

So with the last chapter being about how important describing assessment is, chapter 4 goes into detail about what success actually looks like. To me, this is a very complex notion as creating these assessment guidelines basically tells your students what they need to do and what a “good” assignment will look like. If we allow too much room for ambiguity, then we risk setting our students up for failure by not giving them enough guidance and going completely off path. Davies mentions that obviously excellence can be achieved in a variety of ways, but how will we as teacher create a description of what needs to be learned if every student will be learning different things at different levels? It seems very complex with no right answer.

Something that really caught my eye in this chapter was when evidence of learning was brought up. This is something that I really believe in as a teacher. If students can get grades in math for showing their work and completing the necessary steps to solving the equation, without coming up with the correct answer, then I believe as an English teacher my students should be allowed to show their process of work and also receive grades for it. I would try to implement this in my classroom by some practices I am actually doing myself this semester – building a portfolio which include drafts, writing prompts, and samples of class participation. It also helps break up a looming final exam or project because throughout the year they have collected samples of their work that shows their growth as a student.

Davies emphasizes the importance of collecting “good” samples throughout the years to show your students, however I feel as though this is somewhat problematic. What is considered a “good” sample? If you are able to have a wide range of different types of samples then maybe that would give the students a better idea of where they could go with the assignment. However if students are only shown a couple of past student samples and told that those are “good” samples, it could potentially hinder their creativity because they could assume that it the only way to complete the assignment. As a student who needed to see examples in order to get a vision of what I needed to do to complete the assignment, I agree that having examples for students to look at is so important, but I also think there needs to be careful consideration about what samples are chosen.

The notion of having the entire staff participate in finding samples of assignments from past students is interesting, however I don’t know how realistic that is. Would an entire staff get together to create a binder of samples that parent and students are free to look through that Davies mentions on page 42? I also find this to be somewhat problematic as what if you decide to change your assignments and outlines from year to year, which is most likely to happen. I think this is a great idea to explore; however I don’t know how successful it would be.

On page 39, Davies mentions the age-old debate very common and very touchy in education world. Should students be allowed to submit and resubmit assignment late, even up until a few days before final grades are determined? This issue is very overwhelming to me and I understand the debate from both sides, however I have never had my own classroom before therefore I am not completely sure how I will deal with that issue as a teacher. I think that if I give the option to ALL students to resubmit an assignment, then I would be okay with receiving the assignments late because I have given them that option, and if the students want to improve their grade then they have the option. I must have been unclear or failed as a teacher at some stage if many of my students were struggling with the specific assignment and would most likely feel as if it is necessary to their learning. I believe this is fair because all of the students are allowed to re-do it if they wish, and if they don’t feel the need to re-do it then that is their personal choice.

However, in regards to students handing assignments in late, I will have a penalty for each day it is late in my classroom. I understand that things come up in life and will hopefully be a very understanding teacher if something happens that means the assignment will not be completed on time, but I believe that time management is a very important life skill to have, and if I let my students have things in whenever they please I think that will hinder them greatly in life. For example, late assignments in university are absolutely not tolerated, and they don’t care if you still got it done or not – if its not in by the due date, most professors will not tolerate it. If you come to your job late or sometimes don’t show up when you are supposed to – that will not be tolerated, and will eventually result in losing your job. Time management and due dates is such a crucial skill in life that I think needs to be taught at a young age.

It is also not fair for students who hand their assignment in a week and a half late to get the same mark as a student who completed the same assignment but on the actual due date. I would never refuse to accept an assignment from my students, but I would want them to know that handing it in late will not get the same mark as if they handed it in early. As I said, this topic is very delicate in the education world, especially in the cases where school divisions have no zero policies set in place. I would be interested in hearing my fellow educators opinions on this topic!

Making Classroom Assessment Work: Chapters 1, 2, & 11

As we discussed in class last week, chapter 1 of “Making Classroom Assessment Work” by Anne Davies, starts out with discussing the differences between assessment and evaluation. I found this helpful because it can be misinterpreted a lot, especially for me as a pre-service teacher as I don’t have a lot of experience with assessment or evaluation. (Or I don’t feel like I do.) What I got from the first chapter is that assessment is so crucial in our classrooms and it is something that we should be doing constantly. “Assessment for learning in used to collect information that will inform the teacher’s next teaching steps and the student’s next learning steps.” (Davies, 2)

If we aren’t assessing our students constantly, how we will know where they stand? A student can tell us that they understand and are ready to move on, but without evidence of their learning, we need to be careful not to move ahead without knowing where they are in the learning process. However, evaluating the students too early may cause a roadblock in their learning. “…If we evaluate too early, we limit descriptive feedback and risk interrupting the learning. When we access during the learning and evaluate at the end of the learning, we give students time to practice and improve before we judge the evident.” (Davies, 3) If we evaluate a student too early on without knowing ahead of time where they stand, that is when the entire class does poorly on evaluations. If you are actively assessing your students prior to your evaluation then it will help you to see where and when students need more help and more practice in a particular area without moving on too quickly. It will also hopefully diminish the chance of your students not understanding the content resulting in a whole class failure, which in my opinion reflects the teacher’s teaching more than the learner’s learning.

So how do we as educators ensure our student is learning? Davies suggests actively involving your students in their own learning. For example, engaging your class in a discussion about what is expected from them will clarify any uncertainties and encourage sharing their questions and answers with each other. “When teachers talk about what is to be learned and why it is relevant to students’ lives…students begin to learn to understand what needs to be learned, and they have a chance to prepare to learn”. (Davies, 5) This gives the students a feeling of ownership and would maybe be more inclined to cater to their specific interests therefore making them more interested in their assignment if they have a say in what the assignment should look like.

Davies also points out in this chapter how important self-assessment is. It again is including your students in taking their learning into their own hands. “Self-assessment gives learners the opportunity to think about their thinking and their learning… called metacognition” (Davies, 11) She goes on to point out, “Students who are able to self-assess…are better able to monitor their own learning process.” (11) Allowing your students to assess themselves may lead to greater investment in their learning if they know they have to prove to themselves other than solely just the teacher. I think self-assessment is so important in our classrooms, but I also think that you need to be careful how you implement it. When I was in school and had to self-assess, I would always be nervous to give myself what grade I actually thought I deserved, I would always give myself the grade that the teacher would have given me if they were the ones solely assessing me. Reflecting on this now in my education journey, I was just trying to fit into the perfect student mould as I had formed in my head. As a result, I think it is important to let your students know they can give themselves the honest grade they think they deserve, as long as they have evidence to back it up. I would have been grateful to have a rubric or something to follow so I could have just checked off what I thought I was doing correctly instead of just giving myself the same grade I was used too. It is also important how you allow your students to self-assess.

As some of my classmates pointed out in our discussion during class, making your students call out their grade publicly in front of the entire class is going to make the students embarrassed. I would never give myself full marks in front of my entire class. Davies discusses on page 8 about perhaps having a private journal where you review your work privately, not publicly. Private writing may make your students more honest with themselves, therefore with you. Having them write down their thoughts on what they did well, but also things that they felt they need to work on in a private journal entry will help you as a teacher get a better understanding of where your student stands. They will most likely feel more comfortable talking about things they thought they did well at and also discussing things that they felt they needed help with or perhaps struggled with. And guess what- this is also a form of assessment for you as a teacher!! Providing your students with constructive and descriptive feedback will help them move forward with their learning.

Chapter 2 discusses building the foundation for assessment. On page 16, she talks about how crucial mistakes are for learning. I really appreciated that she included this because as a pre-service teacher, you won’t know what works for you and your students until you try! And with that, there are bound to be mistakes and failures. Davies puts it into a simple and informative sentence: “Learning involves taking risks and making mistakes, and then doing things differently as a result.” (16) Sometimes teachers are seen as people who are “higher” or “all-knowing” but it is important to let your students know that mistakes are okay and you will learn from them; it is a part of the process. “When teachers model making mistakes and fixing them, students learn to value their own mistakes as a source of information for their learning, and as feedback indicating what they need to do differently”. (Davies, 16) It is so important to let your students know that sometimes you don’t have all the answers. My grandfather was a teacher for 35 years and retired in 1984. Obviously so much in the education world has changed, but he recently gave me the advice to admit to your students when you don’t know the answer. We are humans, and if we don’t know the answer, promise to find the answer for them and follow through with it. This will build trust with your students. This part of teaching will never change.

Try to show your students that feedback is GOOD. They shouldn’t feel like failures if their work comes back with comments, this is meant for them to use and take with them so they can be even more successful in the future. Always be positive. As much work as it is for teachers, try to be so specific in your feedback. If there is tons of marks and lines on your paper but you don’t know what you need to work on or why those marks are on it, what use is that? I have a teacher now who will always hand back our assignment with sentences highlighted, and I don’t know what that means. There are also sometimes different colours highlighted in my peers work and we are all confused on if those colours mean anything. Are those highlighted sentences good? Are they bad? It is very confusing and I have no idea what it means or what I have to work on to improve my work.

To promote success in your students’ work, you should always try to show examples and explain what is expected of them in more than one way. All students are different learners, and I will not understand an assignment if I just read the description. I need to see and feel and look at what is expected of me. With so much importance on technology it is so easy to incorporate different ways of explaining of what is expected to your students. Davies suggests bringing in guests who are skilled in that area, watching videos or showing examples of past works. (20)

One thing that stood out to me in this chapter was “By not helping students to picture success, we jeopardize their learning.” (Davies, 20) It is not fair for us to expect our students to understand our expectations by just telling them what to do. I do not understand things by just reading, as I said before, so if we are setting out students up for failure if we don’t clarify out expectations.

In creating a classroom environment, it is important to integrate communication with the parents. This can be a really confusing part especially as a new teacher, because it is really tough talking to parents about their most prized possessions – their children. They created and birthed these people; they do not want to hear that they are not the most perfect angels on the planet. The only way of learning to do this will be by experience and help from other teachers. In one of our other ECS classes, our professor Katia explained an effective way she had found by communicating to parents. She said what she would sometimes do is call the parents ahead and let them know you are excited to have their child in your class and looking forward to your year together. I would definitely try to do this maybe even with a letter or email to let them know who you are and that you want to build a relationship with them. This is especially helpful for the future when you have to make those dreaded phone calls home to those same parents to tell them that their child is not completing assignments or acting out in class. Because you had already established a positive communication line this may make it easier on you in those difficult situation.

Davies talks about inviting parents and students to your classroom before the school year starts on page 21. I think this would be a great way to get to know each other, especially if it is your first year teaching. She also describes how you can set out learning goals together with your students, that way if your student is struggling to complete them then you and their parent already know what is expected and take more ownership in being involved. However, I am not tonally sure I am convinced that this will work in a secondary classroom because I have tried to do this in an English class when I was in grade 12 and it was not successful, in my experience. It never got brought up until parent-teacher interviews when we would fill out what we thought out progress was the day before the interviews and then during the interview we would talk about it to our parents and my teacher would just let me do the talking and he would agree or disagree. Perhaps a different approach would be more effective, but in my experience it didn’t apply to me.

Relationships are so important when you are a teacher with everyone – other teachers, students, parents, etc. Finding out as much information as you can about your students will be so helpful because as Davies points out, if you know your student has a specific talent then perhaps you can tailor their learning to that interest or hobby. Having strong relationships with your parents will make the lines of communication easier.

That transitions into chapter 11, which is all about learning with other professionals is integral to your continued growth as a teacher. One aspect of education that is evident to me throughout my educational experiences as a student and as a pre-service teacher is that keeping up to date with new technologies and ideas is crucial. If you aren’t willing to continue your learning than much of your teaching will eventually become unreliable and eventually somewhat useless. Davies suggests creating a group with fellow educators to help each other learn with exchanging their ideas and opinions. This would be a great way to encourage learning with colleagues. Although I do think that this could be difficult to organize because there are so many aspects to life – your actual classroom with marking and planning, children, sports, activities, just life in general. Professional Learning Communities is something I would have to do more research about, but this is a great way to find time to work with other teachers on my staff because it outlines exactly how teacher can work together. This would especially be so helpful in the English department! With that being said, part of being an educator is committing to be a life long learner who is always willing to collaborate and learn new aspects of the career.