Assessment Genre Critical Review

This week, for my electronic assessment class, I was asked to select a genre of assessment that is used in my teaching field. This is a challenge as I am a special education teacher and I don’t have my own classroom, but I am in the general education classroom. I support 3 English 9 classes and in looking at the assessment genre used the most it’s the reading log.  It is a formative assessment used to check to see if students are reading and understanding what they are reading. Students are expected to find specific details, dates, characters, etc as they are reading. I will be honest, I am not a fan of reading logs-as demonstrated by 2 of the classes I am in students aren’t filling out their reading logs, rather it is the English teacher telling them what to put into the sections. How does this encourage student learning, yet alone create a yearning to read?

As I am evaluating reading logs as an assessment, I look back at a previous assignment, assessment design checklist. Using feedback given to me, questions were adjusted to reflect yes or no questions and better assist me in assessing the assessments being given in the classes I support. The next part of the review requires me to take my checklist and apply it to the genre I selected-reading logs. If I look at my first question-Does the assessment help students build on, go deeper in, and extend their prior learning? I would answer no to this question and based on observations I have seen. Currently, the reading log, being used students are being given the information for the reading log. I am struggling to see how this is a.) having students apply their prior knowledge and b.)go deeper with it. My second question is Does my assessment give students effective feedback? This would be a strong, emphatic no.  Students aren’t given the opportunity to work independently and interact with teachers and other students in addition to interacting with the text. The third question I would apply to reading logs is Do the results of my assessments respond to student learning?  Again this would be an emphatic no. Data is indicating students are not understanding what they are learning and there is no response to when students aren’t understanding it.

There are so many other ways to assess if students are reading and understanding what students are reading and it’s not always a “techie” way. One suggestion would be to have face to face conferences with students. Students get the opportunity to meet with their teacher in a small setting and share what they are reading and demonstrate they know what they are reading. Another way to assess student understanding of what they are reading is to have student to student conferences. I would provide a script in beginning to help guide the discussion and then gradually have students work on asking their own questions. In addition to having students demonstrate their understanding of what they are reading, they work on their collaboration and interactions. If the techie route is the route students what to take, there several technologies that allow students to demonstrate their understanding of what they are reading. Students can create a video, link it to a QR code and place the QR code in the library, around school or in the classroom to have other students scan the QR code for recommendations as what to read for students and staff.

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Assessment Design Checklist

This week in CEP 813 we were asked to begin working on a checklist for assessments designed for our classrooms. I will admit this is a challenge for me as I don’t have my own classroom, thus I don’t design assessments. Rathe I am part of a team that takes a look at the assessments given in class and are asked to analyze the results during or Profesional Learning Community (PLC) time. I did the best I could, but it is a work in progress and I am hoping to use the information from CEP 813 to influence how assessments are designed for the classes I support. Rough draft of my assessment design checklist can be found here

Formative Assessment Design 1.0

Currently in my district we are working towards creating more authentic learning opportunities for students. This past summer, I started looking at the literature units used in the classes I support and began thinking of how we could create a more authentic assessment and learning experience for students rather than give them a paper and pencil test or study guides. The students I currently support in class are struggling readers and writers and they know that so giving them a study guide to fill out, a paper and pencil test or just having them write paper is in my opinion not the best approach to have them demonstrate their learning. The other challenge is the common assessments that are given in my district. I would like to incorporate technology into the assessment and provide students the choice in how they demonstrate their learning. The end game would be the same-meeting the learning target of “I can read and comprehend Literature.” There may be other learning targets assessed at the same time but this would be the main learning target/standard.

The purpose of the assessment is to have students demonstrate their understanding of the book they read. During the second semester students read Romeo and Juliet and Enrique’s Journey. The end assessments for these novels are a paper test and a paper. My goal is to work with the teachers I support and using backward design see how we can create a more authentic assessments along the way for our students. I would also like to incorporate more choice.

In regards to Romeo and Juliet as students are progressing through the story my thought was to have them create an Instagram or twitter account for a character of their choosing. As they are reading, they would be asked to “post” an instagram post or “tweet” out as the character of their choosing. I have templates for both. To make it authentic, they could share their instagram or tweet through an online medium or a media album through Schoology, our school’s LMS system.

Instructions: You are to select a character from Romeo and Juliet. You will create one of the following for your character: Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat or blog. As you are reading the play, you will be asked to make a post through your social media of choice in response to the section of the play you just read. YOu will need to include a quote from the portion of the play you have read. Be creative and make sure you stay in character.

I would like to incorporate opportunities for students to engage with an authentic audience into the classes I work with. I was thinking of having students create an online portfolio through wordpress or another student friendly forum. The more I read the more I come to realize that students need the opportunity to share with an audience beyond the classroom. When given the opportunity to do so, I believe their work becomes more authentic and they are given the opportunity to demonstrate their learning with someone other than their teacher, which in turn will cause them to create a product that truly demonstrates their learning rather than regurgitating information back on a paper and pencil test. In order to bring technology into assessments, students have to be taught how to use the tech tool. As teachers, we can’t assume students know how to use the tech tools. The goal of having students use social media for their characters they will be more engaged with the text rather then having to fill out a study guide.

Annotated Assessment Exemplar

This is a Google Form that was actually used in paper form in a class I was supporting during the 2017-2018 school year. This is an assessment that could be use in the classes I am currently supporting. The purpose of the assessment to have students examine their level of engagement when they are reading their choice books independently. Students complete this assessment throughout the quarter. In making this assessment, the assumption was made by the teachers that students are actually reading. Another assumption made is that students are wanting to read their choice book in addition to that assumption, teachers have assumed students understand the vocabulary being used in the assessment.

One of my beliefs is that ALL students get the opportunity to demonstrate their learning. In looking at this assessment, I wonder if this is the best way to have students demonstrate their engagement with the text. Technology would allow us as teachers to have students demonstrate other ways they are engaging in their reading. Another belief of mine is when giving students assessments, they understand the vocabulary being used. The students who would be answering these questions make me wonder if they would understand the vocabulary being used. Also, knowing the students, I don’t know if they would be confident enough to raise their hand in class to ask for clarification.

This assessment reflect’s B.F. Skinner’s behaviorism theory. As I look at this assessment and combine that with my understanding of the classroom this occurs in, I think the purpose behind it was the hope if students see this score and if it is low enough, it will motivate them to want to read more and engage more in their reading, when in fact it very well may have the opposite affect. Engaging students with a reading assessment or survey ill not cause them to want to read more. If as teachers, we want students to read and engage more with what they are reading, we need to allow them to have choice in how they show us they are engaged in addition to allowing them to be creative and provide an authentic audience for them. An assessment like this will not give us as teachers honest feedback. Let’s give students the opportunity to make choices and be creative to show us they are engaged with their reading.

Three Things I believe about Assessments

As a special education teacher I have many thoughts on assessments, whether they are used in the classroom normally or formally, used to assess the students I work with or to fill up the month of April-they have many purposes. My beliefs around them have been shaped by the students and teachers I work with, my working environment and politics.

As part of my online class through Michigan State in which we are looking at assessments, I have been asked to share my beliefs on assessments.  My first belief is assessments is ALL students need to be given the opportunity to demonstrate their learning.  Students today need to be given authentic opportunities to demonstrate their learning. This may mean creating a blog post or drawing a picture, but as teachers, we need to recognize that. My second belief is assessments need to be free of bias. As teachers we need to understand when we are writing an assessment(especially those paper pencil ones), is the assessment allowing for ALL students to understand what they are being assessed. This includes understanding vocabulary, sentence structure, the structure of the test,etc. When students get to the assumption, it shouldn’t be a surprise or GOTCHA moment. ALL students need to have the opportunity to demonstrate their learning. Also, assessments need to not show cultural bias. I think back to the early years of my career as a special education teacher. We gave the Woodcock-Johnson as part of the reevaluation process-there were pictures on the test that assumed students would know what the object was. My assessment team and I recognized that not all students may have seen certain pictures but we could address the assumption being made by the test. Eventually, it was changed, but how many of my students got questions wrong because they didn’t know what they were looking at?

I have been in many general education classrooms and often I have observed teachers being proud of an assessment that asked 100 questions. There is a shift that is happening in schools. Assessments are going from being paper and pencil to including technology, which creates opportunities for students to really demonstrate their learning. The shift is occurring, but from the observations I have made, teachers are putting their paper and pencil tests on Learning Management Systems (LMS) and calling them digital ( I won’t go any deeper on that one-that is another blog post.) The 2018-2019 school year is presenting a unique opportunity for me to influence major change in the general education classes I support. I am excited for the opportunity and can’t wait to apply the knowledge I gain in CEP 813 to those classes.

Here I go again…..for the 13th year

I have a grin on my face as I am finding myself resurrecting the blog, again. My last post was made as I was making the transition from high school to elementary. That was 3 years ago. Now I find myself facing the start of my 13th year of teaching, but oh how things have changed in 3 years. I am back at the high school level, I have a 15-month-old who is teething, a red lab who thinks she is human and got married.  I also find myself taking classes again at Michigan State University to finish my second Master’s. I am grateful for every step of the MAET journey and excited to close out this chapter. But as I am finding, those chapters never really close.

I am eagerly anticipating the start of the 2018-2019 school year. I have been placed in all English 9 classes. This was a personal request and I am grateful it was honored. I have an amazing team who is going to cannonball jump into the pool with me to bring in elements of blended and personalized learning. All three of us have a passion to reach and Inspire Each Student. I think it is important to note that between the three of us there are almost 80 years of teaching experience.  I find that simply amazing and exciting at the same time as 2 teachers are welcoming me into their classrooms, in addition, to be willing to try new things with technology and without technology.

As I look at the materials I have acquired throughout my MAET journey I realized that was 5 years ago. In the world of educational technology, that is a long time, but the knowledge I gained at the start of this journey is still very much used today. I am excited to be getting the opportunity to apply the knowledge I acquired oh so long ago and in addition to gaining new knowledge in my final classes at MSU (well maybe not final, final-who knows 🙂 and bringing it back to my colleagues.

Once again, here we go……..

New Year, New District, New School

10 years ago I began my career as a special education teacher. My hiring principal at the time took a chance on a rookie teacher with no teaching experience. I spent the first nine years of my career at the high school level in a rapidly growing district in SW Minnesota.  It was a great place to be. There were things I experienced that I am I never imagined I’d be a part of. Never in a million years did I think I would close out the first decade of my teaching career not only switching districts and schools, but switching grade levels. An opportunity presented itself and I made the decision to go from the high school level to the elementary level. It’s scary and exciting all at the same time. Once again, my principal is taking a chance on me.

There are the obvious differences-such as height, the number of teachers I will work with and schedule. And then there appear to be no differences such as educational needs. Many people wonder how I am going to adjust to the switch. I saw about the only major difference is my new students will be shorter then me. In reality, there are few differences from my old students to my new students. I am still working on reading, writing and math. My goal to to work on organization such as using an assignment notebook and keeping track of assignments. I want my students to know they don’t have to go through school hating it, but rather finding what they enjoy about it.

My biggest advantage as I see it is I have the high school experience. I know where I would like to see my students and can help them start on the journey. I will be primarily working with 3rd and 4th graders which means I will be involved with my 4th graders transitioning to the middle school. It is my hope and goal to begin the discussion as 4th graders of what their hopes and dreams are. In doing this I am hoping to help students understand their disability and use  it to help them achieve their hopes and dreams.

I am also a firm believer in being in the right place. This is my Facebook post from August 28th-“The moment when you realize it is true-everything happens for a reason and you end up where you are supposed to be. It’s a great feeling.” It was the second day of teacher workshop in my new district. I have a wonderful opportunity to look at doing what is best for kids and if it means taking chances I know I will be supported.

It is the final night before we head back to school here in Minnesota. As usual I have the first day jitters, but there seems to be something more. It is similar to the feeling I had when I first started my teaching career. I am meeting new students and parents for the first time. We are a team and I want them to know that I want to do what is best for their student. It is with great excitement and anticipation I look forward to the 2015-2016 school year.

Here we go……