Formative assessment or assessment for learning is a proven strategy to improve student achievement.
Mel Riddile's insight:
“Formative assessment is a planned process in which teachers or students use assessment-based evidence to adjust what they're currently doing.
• Formative assessment is a planned process in which assessment-elicited evidence of students' status is used by teachers to adjust their ongoing instructional procedures or by students to adjust their current learning tactics.
• Because formative assessment has been shown to improve students' in-class learning, many educators have adopted it in the hope that it will also raise their students' performances on accountability tests.
• The expanded use of formative assessment is supported not only by instructional logic but also by the conclusions of a well-conceived and skillfully implemented meta-analysis by Paul Black and Dylan Wiliam.” (Popham, 2008)After synthesizing over 250 publications, Black and Wiliam, concluded that formative assessment is perhaps the most effective educational practice when it comes to improving academic achievement. In addition, formative assessment has a disproportionately beneficial impact on low‐achieving students. http://www.hanoverresearch.com/media/The-Impact-of-Formative-Assessment-and-Learning-Intentions-on-Student-Achievement.pdfIn
In 2009, JohnHattie published a meta-meta-analysis of education research called Visible Learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. In that study, Hattie found that formative assessment, when done correctly, had the highest effect size on student learning compared with other classroom strategies.
In recent years, neuroscientists have reported that retrievalpractice—recalling and applying previously learning—had a huge impact (as much as 50%) on student retention of learned content. Combining retrieval practice and formative assessment can significantly reduce forgetting and increase retention of lesson content.
Each school’s instructional framework provides teachers with numerous opportunities to use formative assessments in the beginning and ending of a lesson as well as when engaging students and during student practice in the body of the lesson. Teachers use formative assessment to see if the students have mastered the content of the lesson—did they get it?
Note that mastery means that the students can demonstrate both that they ‘know’ the content and that they can apply what they learned to future or past learning.
Formative Assessment in the Beginning and Ending of the Lesson
• Purposeful Learning – The expectation that all activities be purposeful means that teachers always have something to check on or assess for understanding.
• Focusing (Beginning) – Ask students to demonstrate mastery of the previous lesson through bell ringer, do now, or warm up.
• Knowing the Lesson’s Purpose (Beginning) – Ask students to repeat the learning target or essential question in their own words
• Ask students to predict (“prediction effect”) the “why” of the learning target/essential question (Beginning).
• Use a closure activity or ‘exit ticket’ that asks more than comprehension level, regurgitation questions. Ask students to both recall (retrieval practice) and apply what they learned to future or past learning (Ending).
• Purposeful reading, writing, and discussion - Reflection of some kind that addresses learning using evidence from the lesson that connects the learning to something else (Ending).
Formative Assessment in the Body of the Lesson (Practicing and Engagement)
• Connection activities that ask students to link new learning to older learning• Visualization activities where students draw some concept that has been learned
• Question design - ask kids to write their own questions with different levels of Bloom's involved
• Game play where appropriate can be a great tool as well• Blog writing as a reflective or questioning tool
• Mentor activities that ask the student to create something original using the learning as a model
• Problem solving activities where students apply skills to arrive at a solutionIf students can complete any or all of the above, then we know they have demonstrated proficiency on some level. As we seek to move kids to mastery, we need to be acutely aware of their progress.
We have something like that in school: those days when technically we’re still in school, but because it’s right before vacation, the end of the school year is near, or we’re in the middle of standardized testing, those class hours don’t have the same instructional potential as your average school day. In some cases, like on standardized test days in certain districts, teachers are explicitly told they CAN’T plan regular instruction. On these Lame Duck days, it’s hard to figure out what we can do to still provide valuable learning experiences for our students.
One technique I have used (it used to be in my newspaper classes where students kept weekly logs and then class managers did status of the class intakes to ensure the aligned) is daily learning logs that help students set goals and reflect on each day's learning in addition to setting them up for making broader goals moving forward.
First, it is imperative for students to understand why they are setting goals and reflecting each day. Spending time helping students understand the standards and align the learning is an essential part of what makes this activity meaningful.
A negative relationship with teachers is a major threat to students' sense of belonging in school. And conversely, "happy" schools are likely to report much more positive relations between staff and students.
The problem is, very little empirical evidence supports the idea that people learn better when their instruction matches their preferred way of receiving information. In fact, considering the widespread popularity of the idea, astoundingly few studies support the idea, while far more show that people generally perform better when they've learned something in the style that best fit
One of the main reasons change programs fail is that people don’t understand why they’re being put through the ringer. This is why leaders must be clear in their own heads about the big "why" behind the change they're spearheading and clearly able to articulate it in an accessible, relevant way. A leader who can’t explain why a change needs to happen will only deepen any cynicism and fuel the underground resistance to it.
Over the past 25 years, the U.S. teacher workforce has grown larger, less experienced, and more diverse. But according to a new report, these changes have not affected all types of teachers and schools equally.
The report by Richard Ingersoll, a professor of education and sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, and Lisa Merrill of New York University's Research Alliance for New York City Schools, an organization that studies the local education scene, used the Schools and Staffing Survey to analyze changes in the elementary and secondary teaching force from 1987 to 2012. The Schools and Staffing Survey includes information on teachers' backgrounds, qualifications, and work locations. Key findings fall into several categories:
For years, Sergio Garcia fit the description of a fixed mindset almost perfectly. Garcia was supremely talented, and when he won often as a young golfer, it portended well for his future. He was too good not to win. But when Garcia lost, as one inevitably does in professional golf, frustration mounted. Garcia blamed outside circumstances. He grew increasingly sullen. As famously captured in a rant after the 2012 Masters, he started to wonder if he really was as good as originally thought.
“I'm not good enough ... I don't have the thing I need to have,” Garcia told Spanish reporters. “In 13 years I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to play for second or third place.”
Florida is allowing principals at some struggling schools to ignore most rules and figure out how to succeed.
What would happen if school principals, who know their teachers and students better than the bureaucrats, had the freedom to make their own decisions?
They could determine how much time their kids need to spend on math. They could hire extra fourth-grade teachers or buy a new reading program not yet approved by the school district. They could even plant a garden or squeeze in an extra playground break without asking school district permission.
Starting next year, it will happen in some struggling Broward and Palm Beach County schools.
Karin Chenoweth, a former colleague at The Washington Post, has made a career of revealing why some schools succeed despite lack of funds, reputation and college-educated parents. In her latest book, she delves into the power of the master schedule, a device I have always considered a big bore.
That shows how stupid I am. Chenoweth, a writer-in-residence at the Education Trust, makes me feel a bit better by admitting that she, too, at first did not understand why the principal of a high school in Prince George’s County, Md., said his complex master schedule on a wall-size whiteboard was “the reason for our success.” Later she realized that this was where the school was changing average students’ lives by making sure they were scheduled into Advanced Placement classes that had previously been reserved for top students and creating new classes to support that AP learning.
Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences Have a Shaky Foundation
One widely embraced notion in modern education circles is that students are more successful when their teachers identify and tune their instruction to each student’s particular learning style(s). If you are my age, you likely have your own school memories of taking Gardner’s multiple intelligences test, Dunn’s learning style diagnostic, and of course, Gregorc’s ‘true colors’ mind-styles inventory.
In a newly published paper, researchers showed not only that math anxiety was negatively related to performance in 63 of the 64 countries tested in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), but also that the highest achieving students had the most striking negative relationship between math anxiety and performance. It’s one of the important findings on the brain and mathematics learning that has profound implications for students’ achievement in math, and one that I’ll discuss this morning (April 3) and later this week as math experts gather at a pair of key math-education conferences in San Antonio: The NCSM Leadership in Mathematics Education’s annual conference and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics’ annual meeting.
Gaining Trust Principals are seen as authority figures. Teachers are seen as authority figures. It begins with us when it comes to whether students feel as though they have a voice, and it begins with us to show students that authority figures care about their future as much as students do. We can help students understand that they have a future.
Some of the ways to engage students and gain their trust are below. Most of the examples are using the research of John Hattie (I work with Hattie as a Visible Learning trainer) and come with an effect size (he calculated effect sizes using the average from the meta-analysis he collected). In Hattie's research a .40 effect size represents a year's growth for a year's input.
Here are some of the questions I might ask to redirect:
What is the criteria for the grade you are suggesting? Is the learning reflected in the final number? Should you be deducting points for behavior or lateness? What are you trying to communicate with the grade you are giving? Does the student have any idea about how he/she is doing in your class? He does he/she know? How do you know? What role does the student play in determining the final assessment of learning? Are the grades anchored by the standards? Do students have the opportunity to redo work to show growth? Since grades are largely arbitrary and subjective, we need to work hard to anchor the communication in facts and have some agreed upon criteria that will reflect the level of mastery each student is achieving.
In the End So often we think teachers are the ones who don't want to collaborate, when the principal may be the one who believes that they should dictate the need for collaboration but not be a part of it. This happens with new principals who are still getting a feel for the school community, and veteran principals who are used to establishing the group but not being a deep part of the process. Unfortunately, some principals are in the position because they did their time and have no need to work with teachers. They believe teachers work for them.
That is flawed thinking.
Some of the best learning I had as a principal came from the teachers I worked with every day. This is not remembering the past fondly. The eight years I spent with the teachers of Poestenkill (and a few from around the district) offered me some of the most enormous growth of my life. They contributed to my self-efficacy.
In his 2008 blockbuster, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell makes the case that a person’s age relative to his or her cohort is a key predictor of success. That is, the older you are in relation to your peers, the more likely you are to perform at an elite level in sports, to excel in school, and even to attend college. We see this principle applied in college athletics when coaches “redshirt” freshman athletes, allowing them to practice with the team but not play in official games. Redshirting gives younger athletes an additional year to develop skills and extends their playing eligibility, since colleges allow these freshmen five years to attend and compete.
On the other end of the student age spectrum, many parents of preschoolers have bought into this concept, choosing to delay their child’s entry into kindergarten for a year—a practice known as academic redshirting. Their justifications parallel those of college coaches: these parents believe that their children need that extra year to develop the necessary skills and maturity to succeed in kindergarten. A redshirted child is a year older at kindergarten entry and thus becomes one of the oldest in his class and remains so throughout his school years, enjoying the presumed advantages of age.
Preschools and elementary schools often recommend redshirting, asserting that it bestows the “gift of extra time,” but parents should take such advice with a grain of salt. After all, a preschool stands to gain financially from the practice, since the school will likely capture another year’s tuition. And elementary schools may also have mixed motives: older children are easier to teach and they perform at higher levels, just by virtue of being older. In other words, older children make the school’s job a little bit easier.
How should parents decide whether they should enroll their child in kindergarten when he is first eligible or hold him back for a year? In this article, we draw upon our combined experience—Schanzenbach as an education researcher and Larson as a preschool director—to provide some practical, evidence-based advice. Notably, we find that Larson’s take on the issue, formed by 14 years of experience with preschoolers and their parents, accords perfectly with Schanzenbach’s conclusions based on academic studies: redshirting is generally not worth it.
More interesting is that the prequestioned group was also more likely to successfully answer questions for which they had not been precued.
Why was the cost not observed? Carpenter & Toftness emphasize that a reader controls the pace of reading; the reader can skip over content that she deems less important, and read again content that matters more. The viewer does not control the pace of video; important content might pop up at any time, and once it’s past it cannot be reviewed. So the viewer is more likely to attend closely to the whole thing.
The researchers note that this attention hypothesis can help explain other instances in the research literature where the prequestioning deficit for other content is not observed. For example, Pressely et al (1990) asked subjects to rate each paragraph for interest. Little & Bjork (2016) showed that non-prequestioned information got a boost if it was mentioned in a prequestion, although not the target to-be-learned information.
So in the final analysis, can teachers pose prequestions in a way that boosts memory for targeted content but doesn’t incur a cost for everything else?
In principle, yes. With the right type of material (boldfaced, or video), you're good, and asking for interest judgments works too. But of course none of these may be practicable as the teacher envisions the lesson plan.
This work suggests that a teacher could devise another strategy that uses prequestions without cost--a mental task that requires attention to all content, not just the prequestioned would do the trick. True in principle, but the bottom line on prequestions a the moment seems to be “proceed with caution.”
Angela Duckworth, an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania, was teaching 7th grade math in New York City public schools when she quickly noticed that her best students were not necessarily her smartest students. The realization prompted her to leave her middle school classroom and become a research psychologist, so she could better understand the role noncognitive traits like self-control and perseverance play in achievement.
Duckworth gave a TED talk in 2013 explaining how grit — i.e. perseverance and passion for long-term goals — is a significant predictor of success. Here, we take a deeper dive into her research, and the role technology may play in fostering grit in students.
The needed change in the evaluation process can take a cue from the work being done in those classrooms, schools, and districts that have taken up the mantle of change and have discovered that students are motivated when the classroom is an empowering, dynamic place where learning and growing is expected, supported, encouraged, and achieved. We refer to this as 21st century teaching and learning. Consider the shift in practice from regulation, quantification, and evaluation to include a supported goal for growth and development. Professionals deserve this.
Three suggestions for shifts in thinking and practice about evaluations:
Make the leader's goal to create a work environment where the adults are motivated by an empowering, dynamic environment where learning and growing is expected, supported, encouraged, and achieved. Make the evaluation the product and try to make it one that is reflective of the efforts and the accomplishments. Make the conversations, the support, and the encouragement what is important.
At the same time, you might also find kids who are okay with themselves. They’re not trying to win someone’s approval or show that they’re good enough. They’re just playing the sport out of the joy of it. These kids have a huge competitive advantage. We know that human beings are at their best when they’re in the zone, when we’re not concerned about ourselves. In fact, we don’t even think.
People who’ve dabbled in sports psychology, they say, “Well, the kid who’s the better performer, they think differently.”
The reality is not that they think differently. It’s that they don’t think. It’s the absence of thought. It’s the absence of cognition. It’s the absence of emotion. That really is the advantage.
Stanford Mathematics Education Professor Jo Boaler is championing a dramatic shift in how many math teachers approach instruction. Rather than focusing on the algorithms and procedures that make mathematics feel like a lock-step process — with one right way of solving problems — Boaler encourages teachers to embrace the visual aspects of math. She encourages teachers to ask students to grapple with open-ended problems, to share ideas and to see math as a creative endeavor. She works with students every summer and says that when students are in a math environment that doesn’t focus on performance, speed, procedures, and right and wrong answers they thrive. They even begin to change their perceptions of whether they can or can’t do math.
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