Shifts in Assessment and Learning

Thursday, February 19, 2015

     On another "Cold Day" here in Chicago, I wonder which of the people in the cartoon above is asking that question...  To be honest, being a student and being a teacher these days is HARD.  Expectations are high for both.  Sometimes, we just have to see the reasons for getting up and facing the world.  This week's building meeting gave me that motivation, despite the frigid temps we are facing.  

     Our building meetings at Hiawatha have all been focused around looking at student work.  Sometimes we compare it to a specific standard, sometimes we sort it into categories, sometimes we just talk about the information we gained from the samples.  We have done that for reading, writing, and math on a rotating weekly basis for a few months.  This week, we were talking math and were led by the fabulous +Christina Betz.  She is our math core leader at Hiawatha, and leading the math charge towards the CCSS and utilizing workshop model.  

     Christina started the meeting with the cartoon above, really being honest as to how hard school can be, for both teachers and students.  She then talked about why we are sorting work, and how there have been some major shifts in assessment recently.

     Christina is so right!  We are currently on a DACEE committee together, led by +Bill Davini and +Sue Butler, and we are right in the middle of a major shift in D100.  We have spent quite some time talking about Standards Based Learning, and how formative assessment and feedback given regularly are what our students need to move closer to meeting the standards.  Standards based learning is about being responsive to the students WHILE they are learning.  Using Christina's words, we want to give descriptive feedback that empowers and motivates students to create their own goals and find their own success.

     Her message was very powerful and positive, and really speaks to the shift we have seen at Hiawatha in the purpose for our assessments and the collaboration we have around them.  

     I cannot state how proud I am of the Hiawatha teachers for embracing the shift.

     She then had the teams discuss whatever formative assessments they had brought.  Here are a few sneak peaks into current math instruction at Hiawatha!

     But as I was walking around, I heard some pretty amazing things being discussed by the teams.  3rd grade was talking about self assessment, and how they are starting to have their students self assess their thinking on the back of the exit slips.  I heard a first grade teacher say that she could just recycle the whole stack of assessments, because they pretty much told her how to reteach the concept so that they will understand it.  The 5th grader teachers were talking about their math responses and their rubric for their math journals.  And then I got to 4th grade....

What do you notice about these 3 fractions?  Explain below.

     The 4th grade teachers were sorting their samples using this question into 1, 2, 3, and 4.  After sorting a bunch, they started to see a few patterns in the types of answers they were getting.  After some discussion, one of the teachers said, "Maybe we didn't ask the question in the best way."  (OK, that was a paraphrase not a direct quote, but I was so giddy with excitement that I forgot to write it down.) 

     That is the point of the collaboration we are having.  By working together and looking at student work, and talking with our coworkers with clear targets in mind, we start to see ways that we can change our instruction to maximize learning.  

     After telling them how excited I was, they began to describe how they have seen a transition in their math assessments over the course of the year.  What used to be very lengthy and often time consuming pre-assessments, they are now using much shorter yet more useful formative assessments that guide their instruction.


      Building meetings like this make me want to find a big box of gold stars.  While stickers do not give the best feedback, sometimes they are just necessary.  Gold stars all around.

Christina ended her part of the meeting by saying this:
"Assessment, teaching and learning go hand in hand as each informs the others."

     I loved that statement so much I had to make a graphic for it.  Assessment, teaching and learning all go hand in hand.  Assessment guides our teaching.  Teaching guides learning and creates feedback and new learning. The learning generates new teaching.  Teaching does not necessarily mean learning has happened.  Responsive teaching is here in D100. There has been a shift, and it will do wonderful things for our students.  

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