Finding a path forward

IMG_8546.jpgThe goal of this inquiry is to determine how best I can help improve the quality of student learning at my school through improved assessment practices, specifically feedback.

I have decided we will do this in four ways:

  1. Run a series of staff workshops beginning with our assessment policy and then focusing of feedback. These workshops will allow us to articulate a shared vision of effective assessment, develop a common assessment vocabulary, and explore the theory of assessment.
  2. Conduct walkthroughs focused on developing a deeper understanding of how and what types of assessment are currently being conducted and used. This will allow me to refine the planning for subsequent workshops and for our collaborative planning meetings, as well as identify local experts who can act as a resource for other teachers.
  3. Use two different protocols across the year during collaborative planning sessions to examine formative student assessment data to inform instruction. This will connect assessment directly with daily teaching.
  4. Use teacher inquiry groups during which teachers will engage in small group collaborative inquiries to improve a self-selected area of their own assessment practice.

This four pronged approach is based on the theory of action that “improving student learning and teacher quality happens in the immediacy of daily lessons” (Moss & Brookhart, 2015). This is borne out by my own experiences as well. The further the professional learning is from the classroom door, the less able we are to implement what we’ve learned.

As we are PYP teachers, it is essential that our learning about assessment follows an inquiry model. I will use the following collaborative inquiry model that I adapted to organise our work.

Screen Shot 2018-07-21 at 15.12.15

For the remainder of my blog posts, I will reflect on the process of planning – what conceptual understandings we will need to address, possible ways of doing it, useful resources, and what questions I can anticipate.

Any suggestions or recommendations about strategies, resources, or videos what will get teachers thinking about their own assessment beliefs and practices, would be greatly appreciated, as this will be the first step in our journey.



5 thoughts on “Finding a path forward

  1. Hello Heidi,

    I am curious if you have ever facilitated a staff meeting or workshop before. This past year was the first time I have ever been tasked with this responsibility. I found that most of the teachers were aware of the information we presented but really desired ways to be inspired. They seemed to lack the motivation to change, but did not fundamentally disagree with the reasons for change. I found that they responded best to praise and I made a point to highlight the work that was being done in the area was discussing already and offered loads of resources regarding our new directions. I appreciated that teachers have limited time and tried to provide some ready made instruments that could be easily implemented. I also made a point of being entertaining. I tried to make them laugh in the meeting and got their attention buy respecting their sense of enjoyment. Also snacks help.

    “It’s Steve’s Birthday.” … “I hate that guy..” … “There’s cake in the Conference Room.” … “..well I should say hello.” – Jim Gaffigan

    I would be happy to help if you need any suggestions presenting your ideas.

    1. Hi Victoria,
      Yes, I have presented many, many workshops both for the schools I work at, and internationally at other PYP schools and IB conferences. This has been a big part of my career for the last 10 years and I love doing it and seeing all the different ways teachers work with their students. When planning workshops, particularly those that happen outside my school, I try very hard to ensure the teachers create products that can be implemented as soon as they get back to their school. I found a list once (unsure where) that I use all the time when planning for workshops:
      1. Are all learners engaged?
      2. Are learners constructing their own understanding?
      3. Are learners creating artefacts as evidence of their understanding?
      4. Are learners reflecting on their learning?

      Obviously these apply equally well to the classroom, but I mostly work with adults now. I agree fully with you about the use of humour and snacks. Maybe I link ideas of assessment to snacks. Have teachers assess the snack at their table and then reflect that without giving them criteria, we cannot possibly judge which is the best snack, and then see if we can create a rubric to assess snacks. I think there’s something here. Thanks for the inspiration.

  2. Looks like a good plan Heidi because you have identified four sequential steps that oversee the more specific process you have outlined in your collaborative inquiry model. Like Victoria suggests, teachers are reluctant to change, but you have to be persistent. It is actually more work and more stressful to carry on with ineffective assessment practices because students will not know what to do to when they don’t know what to do, and teachers will find themselves frustrated when they’ve “told them a million times and the still don’t get it!” Personally, this was one of the major buy-in points for me; when I saw my students “touching” the success criteria multiple times through opportunities I provided for them, there were suddenly far fewer questions about what to do and how they got a certain grade or how to get a certain grade. Questions were pointed and I could provide feedback more easily because all I had to do was point to the success criteria as a reference. Once it became a habit of my practice (which took about one full school year by the way), it became less work and more enjoyable because I was “attacked” less by students wondering, and approached more by more students who just needed a poke in the right direction. The issue of reteaching other students became less of an issue in terms of classroom management because students were off on their own offering and giving feedback to peers or revising their work based on feedback from me, themselves, and/or their peers. The place almost ran itself! After I initially front-loaded, I was free to monitor, and deal with issues resulting from an initial formative assessment of draft work etc.
    If you showed this testimonial to a colleague who may be unconvinced, do you think it would help? I hope it makes sense, its late here in Tokyo and I’m afraid I may have rambled on a bit.

  3. Hi Ryan,
    That testimonial is actually very helpful, thanks! I can definitely try to tease out these ideas during the workshop and I think it would help get teachers on board. I expect we will be focusing on assessment for the next two or three years as there is a lot to be done – both in terms of classroom assessment and use of whole school assessment data – and there are knowledge gaps we will have to fill with different teachers as we go. I now need to consider how I can use success criteria throughout the workshop, give them a living example of what we are trying to accomplish.

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