Friday, July 25, 2014

UVA Conference - Day 4 Assessment and Feedback

I'm back again with some notes from the Summer Institute on Academic Diversity conference about assessment and feedback.

Just as a reminder, John Hattie conducted a meta-analysis involving 200+ million students and was able to determine that along with teacher-student relationships, one of the greatest indicators of growth in students was the quality of feedback they received!

Just in case you're a bit rusty, there are really three main forms assessment will take in classrooms. Pre-assessment, Formative Assessment, and Summative Assessment. 

All assessment should serve the purpose of informing the teacher (and student if it's really good) about a student's current level of understanding. In other words...Assessments should help the teacher teach better. If you're giving an assessment that won't help you teach better, then you shouldn't be giving it! (Ahem...state standardized tests!)

Pre-assessment and Formative Assessments shouldn't be graded. Pre-assessment obviously occurs before a concept has been taught to help the teacher assess the kids' readiness levels. If you're giving a multiple choice pre-assessment then it is time for you to assess the quality of your pre-test! 

We all know you shouldn't record grades from a pre-test, but I think it is easy to forget that Formative Assessment isn't really about grades either. Formative Assessment happens while the students are still learning. You wouldn't want someone to take the sum of all your actions in a given field and make claims about you based on that, would you? No way, you'd want them to look at where you were at the end!

Here's a great idea for a quick formative assessment you could try. It's a perfect way to inform your own teaching that only takes a minute. 

I think the best formative assessment happens naturally. Watching your kids play a math game, talking with them at a writing conference, reading their response journals, etc.

Grades (if they must exist at all), should reflect a child's readiness level AFTER the teaching and learning has taken place. What level of understanding has the child attained? NOT, how quickly did they attain the understanding. NOT, did they make mistakes along the way. That's why Summative Assessments are the only type of assessments that should be recorded as grades. I'm lucky enough to teach in district where a grading system at the elementary level is not really valued. If you're in a system that still requires you to keep a gradebook where you record and average a set of grades (especially if some of those grades are from formative assessments) I'd challenge you to challenge your superiors with some of the current research and understandings about effective grading.

I hope you're convinced by your own experiences and Hattie's research that giving feedback to students is worthwhile. Some things to note about feedback are:

Feedback should be specific! "Great job!" "Dig Deeper!" and "A+" are not specific or effective pieces of feedback! This video about Austin's Butterfly is an amazing example of how to give specific feedback. (If these kids can do it, we can too!)

Austin's Butterfly: Building Excellence in Student Work - Models, Critique, and Descriptive Feedback from Expeditionary Learning on Vimeo.

Feedback should be actionable! If your student can't take your feedback and use it to make changes, then what's the point? 

Feedback should be consistent! Whether it comes in the form of handwritten notes, voice recordings, face-to-face conferring, or even google doc's got to keep coming! ALL students need feedback, and they need it often.

Feedback should cause a cognitive response, not an emotional one. If your feedback hurts feelings then it isn't helping. If your feedback makes a kiddo think, you're doing it right! 

What about that kiddo that needs LOTS of feedback? Pick one or two things at a time to work on. Feedback is a great way to move kids along the scale and growing...but like anything it can be overdone.

What are some of your favorite ways to give (or get!) feedback? Personal podcasts, google comments, conferences? I'd love some new ideas!

I'll be back tomorrow to sum it all up, talk about KUDs, and answer the question, "So what's the point of all this?"

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