Monday, October 18, 2010

First Meeting continued....

If you haven't already, read about the first half of this meeting here...

The second team member to share was the art teacher. After reading the William's article, she realized she wanted to work on giving students wait time after she asked questions. That became a focus for her in the first month and a half of school. It became apparent during the meeting that she does like to jump in when people are speaking and to finish sentences. It really did help our rapport grow that we could tease her when this happened and help her to self-monitor her behavior. In addition, she wanted to decrease the number of times she had to give instructions in her class. To do this, she utilized the tool of Thumbs-Up, asking students to show her non-verbally whether they understood directions or not. This tool helps students to become metacognitive and to think and decide if they really do understand. We talked as a team about building the kind of classroom community that makes it OK for students to be honest when they are confused or behind, so that they aren't giving the "thumbs-up" even when they don't understand something.

Next to share was the 8th grade language arts teacher. She was sharing her new Independent Reading requirement with the group and how she was trying to monitor that with Reading Logs, which were the tools she was sharing. I had had a planning conversation with her the week before about this new part of her classroom requirements, and I could see how her thoughts had progressed since our conversation last week, and also her misunderstandings about how formative assessment might fit into the independent reading requirement. In explaining her reading logs, she talked about how much time her students were required to read. Some probing questions led her to the understanding the giving students a reading log and a goal was not requiring the students to set goals, which is the formative assessment strategy she thought she was accomplishing. It was serendipitous that over the weekend I found a great blog post in which a reading teacher wrote about her students using reading logs to do some self-assessment and for conferencing between the student and teacher. I passed this reading along to my teacher and will check in with her later in the week to see what she thought.

The last presenter for our first meeting was a 5th grade teacher. This teacher was part of the team last year and in a classroom, she would be the perfectionist. :) The tools she shared, I think, really gave the rest of the group a clear picture of how to plan for using formative assessment tools and for using the data that the tools provide. She shared some learning targets she had written for her fifth graders in their science class. The learning targets had been revisited by the students after each classroom activity and once more after the summative assessment. Students were self-assessing their knowledge and understanding of the learning targets. The team was able to suggest to this teacher that she somehow have the students code each time they re-assess the targets, better tracking the flow of their understanding. It is the mark of a good team that even though it was apparent this teacher has a deeper understanding of formative assessment, they still felt comfortable giving her suggestions for improvement, and she was thankful to hear them. This 5th grade teacher teaches ELA as well. She also shared a method of providing feedback to students using twiducate. Twiducate is a social net-working site that is private in the classroom. It has a format similar to facebook. The teacher posted a prompt for students to write about dealing with the book she is reading aloud to them. After their posts, she went back and left feedback comments for them and the students made changes to their posts to reflect what they had learned from the feedback left to them. Several other teachers were eager to learn more about using twiducate for similar lessons.

The last part of the protocol for sharing formative assessment tools asks presenter to reflect on how the data from the tool caused them to adjust their instruction. As a group we kept struggling with this reflection. We realized a couple of times that instruction wasn't adjusted because the tool really wasn't used formatively. In those instances, we all brainstormed ideas for pushing those tools to be formative. Other times, we were just confused about how that adjustment of instruction was supposed to happen.

But then we moved on to our new learning. We looked at chapter three in our formative assessment learning guide. This chapter is about the triangulation of data in order to get a valid picture of what students know and can do. This chapter gave us an "A-HA moment" when we read this:
"The purpose of developing and using assessments and gathering student evidence within The Formative Assessment Process is three-fold. It allows (1) you to know where students are in relation to the learning targets, (2) students to see what they know and need to work on, and (3) you and your students to use this information to make decisions about where to go next with the learning."
And then I knew the problem. When I created the protocol, I was making formative assessment about the teacher only. And it isn't! The huge power of formative assessment comes in the way that it puts the ownership for learning back into the hands of the students. It gives them choice and power. It takes the veil of secrecy off our teaching, letting students in on the "why" of learning. The team discussed how we could revise the protocol to reflect our new understanding.

In addition to the above new learning, the chapter outlines the three types of formative assessment: products, conferences, and observations. I asked the team members to think about their own practice and share where they felt their strengths and weaknesses in using these three types of assessments. After some discussion, I asked the team to start being intentional and trying to use all three types with at least one class. This was their homework.

I had planned to spend a bit more time on the learning portion of the meeting, but the time got away from us and I did not want to hold them any longer on a Friday afternoon. But honestly, I could have. When I said it was 4:30, so we would wrap it up, they were all surprised. How refreshing to still feel ready to share and learn more on a Friday afternoon after a full day of professional development!

The last thing I asked the team to do was to fill out a Ticket Out the Door. The first question was asking them to reflect on the tool they presented (or were going to present) and explain which type of assessment it was. In this way, I was tying what they had done to the new learning they accomplished from Chapter 3 in the learning guide. The second question was asking them to reflect on which tool from today's presentations they could envision working in their own classroom. With this question, I was hoping to build their efficacy as well as have them reflect on their craftsmanship. In the coming weeks, I can check in with them about what they indicated they wanted to try and see how it is working for them.

I have such positive feelings for the year ahead!!

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