Halfway There

imagesI officially reached the halfway point in internship!  There are about 38 teaching days left, give or take. Yes, I am very relieved that I am halfway through and still sane and relatively stress-free. On the other hand, this is scary because I am most definitely NOT halfway through my material for my classes. I have already cut out at least 3 assignments and so many m
ore activities that I had planned which is disappointing, but I simply don’t have time to get this stuff done. For my grade 10 class I have spent about double the amount of time I had originally planned for a novel study. I am not entirely sure how the days seemed to slip away, but with PD days, ass
mbly’s,holidays, and interruptions, the last two months have went by incredibly fast.

Something that I am learning very quickly is that it is really hard to let go of material and condense units. During the summer when I was trying to plan my units for this fall, I was worried that I would run out of things to do and there would be extra time left in the semester. I’m sure experienced teachers would laugh about this fear because I am running out of time, fast. As hard as it is for me to get rid of certain assignments and activities, I am coming to find that it is absolutely necessary because some of my grades 10s are desperately getting tired of this novel.

I am so unbelievably lucky to have been placed at an incredibly good school with even more incredible students. Not to mention being placed with an experienced teacher who has provided me with nothing but support and encouragement, while still ensuring I am learning as much as I possibly can to become a competent teacher.

With that being said, the students are starting to get really comfortable with me and this past week I have to admit that I have been feeling quite discouraged with how they have been acting. The past two days, different students have been battling almost everything in my lessons. “Why are we doing this, we talked about this yesterday, I don’t think we need to talk about it again today. I think we all get the point.” “I don’t want to watch this because we already learned about this while reading the book. I think this is stupid so I am going to play on my phone instead.” “Is that really the best way to say that sentence, shouldn’t you change the verb.” I think the sudden rebelling has to do with the fact that we have analyzed our novel to the bare bones, and want to move on. Which is fair, I get it. It’s just such a great book with so many amazing themes and connections to our lives! After spending a lot of time on this unit and realizing it didn’t go over as I planned, I am sad to see it go.

UnknownMarking. As much as I love literature and wouldn’t want to teach any other subject, I am already overwhelmed with the thought of the immense amount of marking in an English classroom. The amount of time spent on marking papers is amazing. My coop has spent at LEAST 8 hours every Saturday for the past few weeks marking papers. Not to mention the fact that it not only is time consuming, but it is extremely meticulous. There are no right or wrong answers (for the most part). Marking my first few papers was very overwhelming. The ones that I would consider to be garbage (sorry kids!), my coop would go over it with me explaining why they could get a 10/10 in regard to their content, but a 0/10 on their mechanics or something along those lines. You really have to dig deep and look around for what is in there, and analyze their work comparing it to the rubric in order to come up with a grade.

Continuing my marking rant, so you have the majority of the class marked but wait, you can’t hand them back because there are still 6 papers missing. The struggle is so real to get things in on time and that is what I have found to be the most frustrating. You can’t completely finish something until ALL students have their assignments in. I can’t simply give them a zero, and as much as we like to scare these elementary aged children into thinking high school teachers don’t chase you around looking for missed assignments, that is absolutely false. We still do, because we are expected to.

Something else I have been struggling with is the fact that my ideals and teaching philosophies are not completely coming through even though I am in a classroom teaching everyday. I struggle with the fact that sometimes it is a contest between philosophy vs. reality. Is it in my philosophy that I should rely on direct instruction? No. Do my students complete tasks and behave when we do student led learning? No. It baffles me that I have tried to include so many interactive and differentiated learning tasks in my lessons, and more times than not, they completely flop. As soon as I get up in front of the class and direct instruct them, they completely switch and are the best students ever.

Despite my struggles, I have to remind myself that this amazing teacher that I have created in my head, will not always be able to transfer into the real classroom. If this is what works for this particular group of kids, then I will do whatever they need to succeed. They seem to respond really well to structure and direct instruction. Obviously at the end of this internship, I will  be re-evaluating my philosophy and perhaps it should read something more along the lines as, adjusting to the needs of students to ensure their success in the classroom, regardless of what I have pictured in my head or what I think works best.

Something else included in my teaching philosophy is ensuring that I have alternative forms of assessment. I have found this really challenging to implement in the classroom because there is the restriction of the curriculum. Would I like to have the students be writing three or four essays in a semester? No, of course not. That sounds awful. Yet the ELA 20 curriculum has at least three different types of essays expected, not to mention other types of writing and oral outcomes. I have been able to utilize alternative forms of formative assessment because there is more leeway, but I will admit I am not doing this as much as I would like to.

I am finding it really hard to completely come out of my shell because I am in someone else’s classroom. I won’t be there at the end of the semester when they are preparing for their finals, so collaborating with my coop to ensure that I will have hit everything needed is crucial. At the end of the day, my coop teacher’s name is the one beside each student’s grade therefore I have to teach in a way that pleases my coop. I have been fortunate that my coop has basically left me with free reign for preparing and teaching the class I have been carrying throughout, however she still needs to know what I am doing and where I am going with things. As strange as this sounds, I feel more confident in front of my kids without my coop there, because then I act instinctively on what I need to do in regards to classroom management or anything that arises. Whereas when she is there I always second guess myself, thinking, “Is this what she would do? How would she handle it?” It’s really tough being watched and judged everyday.

Overall, I am really proud of myself for making it this far. I have managed to find a resemblance of balance in my life. I try to utilize my time well, so that when I go home for the day I can go home and do other things besides school. So that basically means going to bed at 8:30, but I definitely need my sleep. I really enjoy my time in the classroom with the students, and I love being in the high school environment. I know that I chose the right age group, because I find it so enjoyable to be around people this age. I will be honest – I am really looking forward to next semester (my last semester!) back at the university with the roles reversed one last time where I can be the student again for a few months.

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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.

Assessment in the Classroom: No Zero Policy

Assessment is something that has been a hot topic in most of my education classes lately. Obviously assessment is such an important part of any type of education, however, is there only one specific set way of assessing? How do we know is valuable to assess, and how to do it in a reliable way?

There is the heated debate about the no zero policy. I am not 100% sure about how I feel about this issue because I have never taught my own class before; therefore my views about marking and assessment are not totally concrete. I believe that if a student does no work, then they should not receive a grade for it. I do not think that they should necessarily receive a zero on that particular assessment, however I think giving them the grade of “incomplete” is fair. I have a hard time understanding the notion of giving a student a minimum of 30%, who did not put any effort and did not complete an assignment at all, when another student did try and did not meet the rubric and only met 46% of the criteria.

I believe that school is not only a place where students should be learning new content and increasing their knowledge about various subjects, I also think it’s a place of creating life long leaners and therefore, teaching life skills. I don’t believe that giving a minimum mark to someone who put zero effort in and has no intentions of completing the assignment, is teaching them good life skills. Students need to realize that time management is a crucial life skill that needs to be learned early in life. If a student doesn’t respect due dates, then will they respect the dates and times for jobs in the future? If they have learned through their entire schooling that they can get marks for something they didn’t complete, it will create unreliable adults.

In a perfect world, (or my perfect world, at least) there would be no marks. Does there need to be a grade attached to pieces of work that students create in the classroom? I would rather give really specific feedback explaining what my students excel at and what they need to continue to work at. I find it really hard to define a 73% graded essay and then what makes a 75%. What is the 2% that makes it different/better?

I realize that this notion is really unrealistic as everything in our world revolves around grades. Our own faculty of education revolves around maintain a certain average in our classes in order to be allowed to stay in the program. I have a hard time with this approach because I understand that being able to maintain a certain grade is essential in ensuring that we are being good learners, however a question I have wondered often is does a certain grade reflect what type of teacher I will be? Furthermore, if I am able to maintain a grade above 70% (in my major area which is English), does that mean I will be a good teacher? Is it fair to say that people who don’t maintain that average won’t be good teacher, and need to go back and retake those subject area classes? This is something that is near and dear to my heart, because I don’t believe that a student who received 68.5% in their major area should have to have their degree set back a year in order to pull that average up. I struggle with this area of my education because even though my major is English and that is the subject I need to stay above 70% in, once I receive my degree and am a licensed teacher, there is no guarantee that I will be teaching English. I can be teaching any subject area, in any grade level. Therefore, I am not completely sure that maintaining a certain average in a specific area is a valuable reflection of teaching abilities.

Instead, I believe that real world experience is what we would be judged on because that is the best way of gaining knowledge. It my opinion, I see lots of fellow students who are absolutely great at learning. They get great grades and can complete every assignment more than satisfactory, and can create fantastic lesson plans on paper. However, I wonder what will happen when these people are challenged with learners who are different from them and they find that things don’t go as planned? I will end this post with posing this question – does a great student equal a great teacher?

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!