Monthly Archives: February 2015

Rubrics in the Classroom

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Last class, we were given the opportunity to create our own portion of the rubric for one of the assignments following the presentation given by Tim Caleval. In this discussion of developing the rubric, it became really clear how making a rubric for an assignment can become increasingly difficult and rather fuzzy with details. While some people may think one way is the correct way and wording, others may disagree and think another way. It shows that as teachers, there will be many different ways to create rubrics for assessment of various assignments, and there are many different ways of interpreting what is being said.

I really enjoyed Anne Davies way of involving students in creating their own rubric in Making Classroom Assessment Work, and it seemed similar to what we had done in class. However, what we did in class took a substantial portion of our learning about assessment, and as a teacher, I do not know if I would have three hours for students to develop their own rubric. I really enjoyed, however, the four steps she suggested, “brainstorming a list of ideas… sort and group the ideas… make and post a T-chart… [and] use and revise as you learn more” (pg. 56). I think this was a great idea and it really helped form the frame of mind we all needed to be thinking in for creating said rubrics. I also really liked the idea of splitting the class into portions within the rubric, that way it saved some time in creating a fully developed rubric for all to see. The only thing I would change for that class would be the opportunity to hear (or see) everyone’s development of their ‘meeting’ level on their own section.

By including students in the making of the rubric, I think it can be really effective in engaging the students in their own learning. By allowing them to create their own rubrics for their assignments, they will know and understand what is expected of them, and the learning process becomes more transparent for both the students and the teacher. However, the downfall with allowing students to create a rubric for themselves, means you are taking class time away from other educational and learning opportunities. As a teacher, it becomes your responsibility for the students, and with that, also comes the pressure to have the students meet all the outcomes required for that subject at that grade level. There is a lot of content that needs to be covered in only a short period of time, and by having the students develop each of their rubrics, it takes time away from the educational portion of teaching. This is not to say, however, that students creating their own rubrics as a class is not educational, but it does come at a cost, and as teachers you must decide at what cost it may come. Of course, it helps build the classroom environment, brings everyone together to work collaboratively and constructively, it builds their understanding of the content and what they need to do to do a good job in their learning, and it also provides the chance for students to control their own education. I think to increase time efficiency, as an educator, it may be up to you to decide what rubrics students should develop, and what rubrics they should just know about. For example, I think it would be important for the students to develop the rubric for bigger assessments and projects that can take the form of their learning to that point, while the smaller assignments (for example, the formative assessments and assignments) should be the responsibility of the teacher.

This shorter PDF I think would be helpful in creating rubrics with your students. As Joan M Yoshina and Violet H. Harad state, “students who are involved in the process of creating a rubric have a better understanding of what must be done to reach expectations. With the rubric as a guide, they learn to monitor their own progress and make improvements in a timely manner”. I think this statement is extremely true. Not only are students understanding their own expectations of the assignments, they are also able to improve on their assignments. I think as a teacher, I will have due dates for assignments, but, I will also allow drafts, before the due date, and re-writes after the due date, as learning should take place all the time, and students should want to grow and get better. Rather than providing marks at the end of the assignment, I will hope to provide constructive feedback, with the option for the students to improve their work, and re-submit it. Of course, this makes for a lot more work as teacher, but if we are with our students each step of the way with their process, hopefully their understanding will grow. Ultimately, everything should be based around the students success. 

The other resource I found that I think might be useful for both teachers and students takes the form of a list in creating a rubric. Although this document is mostly geared towards teachers, I think it would be easily adaptable to use for students in helping them create their own rubric. I found it useful because it first starts in describing what a rubric is, then it shows that there are two different forms of a rubric – holistic and analytic. I had no idea there were different types of rubrics, but after reading what each of them were, it seemed to make sense. It talks about assessing student learning, which is always useful, and helps to describe what a good rubric would do. What I found most useful, though, is the end where it talks about and describes the steps you should use to create your rubric. I think this would be really helpful for both students and the teacher in creating their own rubric in the classroom! 

Authentic Assessment

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As teachers and educators, it is important to be continuously assessing and evaluating our students in our classrooms. Why, might you ask? Continuous, or ongoing assessment, allows for us as educators to understand where our students are at with the content we are teaching them, it helps us form other lessons based around what they are understanding, and therefore, what they may not be understanding. It also helps us understand where our students might be confused, or misguided with the content and assignments. It is extremely important to provide your students with as much constructive feedback through formative assessment as possible. 

While I was in school, most of the time we as students would work extremely hard on an assignment – an essay, a presentation – but when we got our marks back, we would be disappointed. Sometimes it was because we did the assignment wrong, and other times, we just didn’t understand the content at a deep enough level. This disappointment would have been easily avoided if our teachers would have checked in with us, or provided some form of feedback before submitting the final draft. Of course, schools and assessment are moving forward and away from the ‘final draft’ of an assignment, or a final exam, and rather providing options for the students, with guided help along the way. I think this is definitely a good thing, but that also makes our job a lot harder. 

Schools are also moving towards making teachers accountable for their assessment practices. In other words, teachers are being closely watched by not only the students, but now their colleagues, and students parents as well. As a teacher, it is extremely important that you can validate not only the marks you are giving your students, but validate your form of assessment on them as well. As Anne Davies states in Making Classroom Assessment Work, “there are three general sources of assessment evidence gathers in the classrooms: observations of learning, products students create, and conversations with students about learning” (p. 45). What this means, essentially, is that teachers should be continually collecting evidence of the students learning from many different forms and sources over time, and eventually, trends and patterns in their learning and development will appear. This not only creates the reliability of your assessment as the teacher, but it creates a validity of your classroom assessment. As you educate your students, you will be at each step with them, providing feedback, and helping them understand the content and succeed both inside and outside of the classroom environment.

An example of this – the formative assessment with constructive feedback – would have been last class. I actually enjoyed getting see and understand where I was at with my blogs and reflections up to this point. It helped me to understand where I needed improvement (where I might be lacking) and it also showed me where my strengths were. Rather than waiting for the ‘report card’ to come out and see where I was standing with this portion of my marks and class, and then wondering where I could have done better to improve the mark, I can see where I am at now and try to achieve a better mark before the term is done.

Participation and Attendance in Schools

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One of several big debates in education right now is the debate over participation marks within the schools. Generally speaking, I personally am not in favor of participation marks, but I recognize that the situation is the biggest determinant over whether it should be appropriate. In other words, participation marks should change based on the class, the school, the subject, and the age, among other things. Growing up, participation marks were common in almost every class, and in some cases, were worth a significant chunk of the final grade. Likewise, attendance marks permeated most areas of my education. Critics will tell you, and I tend to agree, that the problem with participation/attendance marks is that they don’t measure anything of significance – a student who learns nothing, but makes a point of asking a question every class, could theoretically get a better grade than a student who excels at the course, but is shy. However, there may still be a place for this grading practice in schools, albeit heavily modified to better reflect outcomes and learner needs.

This post from the Teaching Professor Blog, written by Maryellen Weimar, explores an alternative way of assigning participation marks. She and her colleague, Lolita Paff, note that participation (and attendance) marks are really intended to measure a student’s engagement with the course material – which is distinct from being loud and/or present-in-body-only. They use a point system to reward attentive, engaged learners – students who volunteer in class, are consistently on-time, who have their homework ready to be submitted, and participate positively in group work situations earn tickets. Those tickets can then be added, at a students discretion, as a bonus point on a major exam. This strategy emphasizes independent behaviour regulation and demonstrating active learning skills; the fact that it is not applied wholesale means that there is added value, and that students are earning it, rather than it being handed to them. 

On the other hand, there are some who see no use whatsoever for participation marks, of any kind. Ashley Squire lists a number of arguments against participation marks here. Among them, the fact that it is difficult to calculate consistently and that by its very nature is vague – both reason enough to question its legitimacy, because honestly, what is really being assessed? What are you asking of your students? More importantly, though, participation marks rarely do what they’re intended to, which is to encourage meaningful contribution and discourage “slacking off”. The students who will be most affected by a participation grade are those who don’t “earn” it – extremely introverted students, those will anxiety issues or learning disabilities, those who don’t have the necessary language competency, or those who don’t feel that they are well-liked by others (or have nothing of value to contribute). Ask yourself: what type of learning environment do participation marks create?

I realize I don’t have a lot of in-classroom experience, and maybe my views will change over the next year, but traditional participation marks don’t seem to have much, if any, value in the classroom. I liked Weimar’s alternative approach, and is something I might try in the classroom myself; but it’s hard to argue with Squire’s logic against the rarely-effective effort mark.