Monthly Archives: January 2015

Beginning With the End in Mind

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As a student, and active learner, I know I have always struggled to overcome the fear – and even anxiety – that comes along with any assignment, quiz, or project. I would always hesitantly hand my assignments or exams in, and upon receiving the handed in work, I became even more nervous to find the grade attached at the end. We grew up extremely mark-driven, and I can honestly say that even if there was any form of constructive feedback, I would not have remembered it, simply because I would never have looked at the feedback given. In class, when we were handed out the diagram and asked to fill it in based on our readings of a few of the chapters from Anne Davies “Making Classroom Assessment Work”, I knew I had read and understood the chapters, and I also understood that the assignment was not for marks, but more to see what the students knew – in other words, it was a form of diagnostic assessment. Still, the anxiety came back, and I struggled to recall what I had read, words started to mix together, and my thoughts began to be unclear and jumbled together. It seems crazy to think that in a matter of a few minutes, I went from being “normal” into a state of panic as soon as I was asked to complete something for assessment.

In chapter 3, Davies talks about creating a clear link, or destination as she would say, towards what the students should be learning. When looking at the curriculum, it is assumed that all students in the classroom at a High School level are starting at the same place, with the same (or similar) knowledge, and all learn the same way at the same pace. We know this is not true, but from a curriculum standpoint, it is, or should be, true. As teachers we know this is not the case. As Davies pointed out, “teachers find out what students already know, can do, and can articulate, and then they teach”, which basically says that we need to find a multitude of ways to reach our students and meet their ever-increasing needs. It also goes on to say that we need to have a comprehensive understanding of our subject to help students learn. Even though I do agree to the said statements above to a point, I cannot help but to also think that this seems extremely theoretical, and almost impractical – especially as a new teacher. Not to mention, being a Health major in a secondary setting, there really are no options available for myself. Therefor, stating that a teacher needs to have a comprehensive understanding of their subject matter before teaching the students, although is true, I think would be a lot to ask as a new teacher, who even though might have majored in Health, or English, to end up teaching a subject outside of their comfort zone. 

I think it is important to be honest with students, especially when it comes to assessment. Diagnostic assessment can most definitely be effective if used properly. This website demonstrates several different types of Diagnostic assessment, which during our class discussions, we seemed to use a lot as a good frame of reference. Along with the website, there are several other PowerPoint’s with information regarding assessment in general. As a (be)coming teacher, I think it will really help to understand both the positive and negative sides of each type of assessment used, as some individuals will love exams, while others may love to perform. In the classroom, it is extremely important to explore, and let students have the opportunity to choose, their own “final projects” or assessments in terms of assignments.

Assessment and Negativity

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We want to have and create lifelong learners, but we also want to make sure what we are doing in our classroom, and what our students are taking out of our classroom, is purposeful and meaningful to them. In other words, we as teachers need to bring the curriculum to life, and show our students how it relates to them, help them make connections to what they are learning in school to what they are living. In terms of the assessment portion of education, it is clear to know that assessment is messy, at times unclear, and potentially harmful. While we were in class, we were asked to reflect on our past experiences with assessments both in the school and with extra-curricular experiences, whether that be in a sport or a form of art/music, and through our conversations, most of the memorable experiences were negative. It shows that negative thoughts and experiences have a huge impact in our lives, and this negativity carries with us as we move forward. As a (be)coming teacher, I would hope that my students will not associate assessment (both formative and summative) to negative thoughts and experiences in my class. After it was pointed out that most of our experiences were negative, we started to understand that not everything we experienced with assessment was negative, rather that is what stood out to us when we thought of assessment and evaluations. As I was thinking about the class, I started to realize something. Most of the negative experiences that we had could have been avoided with a simple clarification in the assignments, or tasks.

As I reflect on my experiences, first within the school setting, initially I remember the bad experiences, and why they were bad. I also think that if my teachers had given me feedback as to what I did wrong, or what I needed to do to improve, the mark at the end of the assignment, or exam, wouldn’t have been as bad. If they would have taken a few extra minutes to provide constructive feedback, and even an opportunity to re-do the assignment with a better, more comprehensive understanding of the tasks, I know those negative experiences would have turned into positive ones instead. Maybe that is part of my beliefs as a teacher. I want all my students to be successful in my class, and understand what it is they are learning. I know it is easier said than done, but I would love to provide second, and third chances to my students, as I would rather them understand the content and be successful, than for them to see a bad mark and quit trying.

Several years ago, I had a teacher that I really enjoyed. He would cover the content with us to make sure we understood it, using current events and issues of interest to make it relatable and easier to understand. During and at the end of each unit, he would allow us the opportunity to work as a class and decide together when things would be due, and when our unit exam would take place. It gave us the responsibility and ownership we wanted and needed as a class to work together, while still meeting our own individual needs. If we wanted to have the exam a month from the day, he would allow us to, but he also made it very clear that we would be covering new content each day. He also always advised us that it would be easier to have the assignments and exam due earlier, so we would not get ‘lost’ or ‘forget’ important material we covered during the time within the unit. I think as a (be)coming teacher, I would love to adopt this technique into my classroom. Not only does it create a relationship with the students, but it also helps develop the trust with them as well. I think being able to relate and create open relationships with the students will help not only you as the teacher, but the students as well, both in terms of their assessment and evaluation, as well as their ability to communicate and ask the questions they have, or the misunderstandings that may come about.