Friday, January 30, 2015

Responsibility or Mastery?

One "essential learning" in first grade math is that students need to understand addition and subtraction.  If a student takes a test on adding and fails it, should you allow a redo? In the primary grades, we tend to understand that the student needs to master the content.

 In later grades, the answer is often that a student should not be allowed a retake because he should have studied the first time. We have the impression that giving a student a lower grade will hold the student accountable. In many ways, the low grade lets the student off the hook. The student gets a low grade and they are done. We also like to use future teachers as the reason we can't allow them to do a retake. We have to teach them they won't get good instructional practices in the future by not giving them good instructional practices now. Not allowing redoes and retakes sends the message that the timing of the learning is more important than the content.  

If a first grade teacher took the approach that learning responsibility is more important than addition, think of the impact that would have on this student as he moves into 2nd grade and throughout the rest of his education. Which lesson will be more important in 2nd grade, knowing how to add or the fact that the student (supposedly) learned to be more responsible by not being allowed to continue to assess his math facts?  

Study habits are important.  Rather than using punitive grading to "teach that kid a lesson" maybe we need to take time and teach study habits.  When they fail, help the student create a “retake plan.”  Require them to re-take and redo.  The retake, by it's very nature, will be more time intensive.

We want students to be responsible. However, that lesson should not be at the cost of mastering the content. Keep a separate grade for responsibility and make studying the first time a more desirable option.

Sending the right message with your grades

What do I teach?  

Do I teach students responsibility, content, or character?  

If you answered all 3, you are right.  Aren't all 3 important? Can one grade show everything for these 3 diverse topics? It is hard to get an accurate reflection of anything when we mix in everything. I want to use grades to help determine next steps. The next step is very different for the following 2 students and yet the overall grade would not tell me what to do to help these students.

Student 1
5/5 brought in Kleenex
7/10 Math Assessment 1
5/5 covered book
10/10 homework
10/10 homework
6/10 Math Assessment 2
3/0 Bonus-"Math Selfie"

46/50 =92% = B+

Student 2
0/5 Kleenex
10/10 Math Assessment 1
0/5 Covered Book
10/10 homework
0/10 homework
10/10 Math Assessment 2
0/0 Bonus "Math Selfie"

30/50 = 60% = F

Can these grades help me determine who needs an intervention for responsibility? Can these grades give who needs intervention for "Effort?" Can these tell me who needs an academic intervention?

Effort, responsibility, and academics are all important.  They must be given separate grades in order to use grades to intervene.

In the Real World You Can't Turn Things in Late?

“In the real world you aren’t allowed to turn things in late, you’d get fired!!!” 

Is that true?  Do you really get fired for turning things in late? Let’s use Johnson Crossing's (5th and 6th grade building) PLC discussion board as an example.  Understand first of all that this isn’t about the PLC discussion board (teachers-no need to feel guilty for not posting).  

Here is what the January 5th Weekly Bulletin said “ Please respond to “PLC Data” post by January 6th.”  We have 45 teachers at JCAC.  Fifteen teachers responded prior to or on January 6th.  Nine additional teachers posted late.  Do you think anyone got fired?  How about written reprimands?  Anything?  Anyone,  anyone, Bueller, Bueller, Bueller.  That’s right, teachers sometimes don’t turn anything in when they are required to by their principal and nothing happens.

But that's different, right? You are correct, our staff is ages 22-53 years old. Our students range in ages from 10-13 years old. Yet we expect our 10 year olds to show responsibility that our 30 somethings are not expected to do.

So why not get upset with the 21 teachers who did not complete the assignment. We had a great in-person discussion. We learned together to use PLC data. As a principal, it is more important that the learning about our PLC Data happens than how and when it happens.

What if my Doctor Assessed using a Punitive Grading System?

**The basic idea of this post comes from a fictional story Rick Wormeli used as an example in a workshop I recently attended.

Most of us believe that turning in assignments on time is an important behavior for students to exhibit.  However, it should not be confused with the essential skill we are trying to teach.  If behavior is given it’s own category, it allows us to accurately reflect the students academic ability.  If we want to use grades to help us make important decisions about student  progress and next steps, it is critical that we understand where they actually are in the learning process.  Reducing grades for late work combines behavior and academic ability, thus confusing what is meant by a grade. Consider the following example:

I went to a doctor to get a Blood Pressure test.  Blood Pressure is assessed using the following chart

Blood Pressure
mm Hg (upper #)
mm Hg (lower #)
less than 120
less than 80
High Blood Pressure
(Hypertension) Stage 1
High Blood Pressure
(Hypertension) Stage 2
160 or higher
100 or higher
(Emergency care needed)
Higher than 180
Higher than 110

I showed up to the doctor and parked in a 15 minute parking zone, knowing that I would actually be in the office for 30 minutes.  I had to do this because I was already late so I couldn't find a parking spot.  The doctor noticed that I was late.  His policy is an automatic 10 points are added to each blood pressure category when people show up late.  When he found out that I parked in a 15 minute parking zone, he had to add another 10 points to my blood pressure according to his policy.  When I got my results back, my blood pressure was marked:

117/76  + 10 for being late = 127/86 + another 10 points for not following directions = 137/96

I have now been prescribed medication for High Blood Pressure.  It kinda stinks since I don’t have high blood pressure but it was my own fault.  I have truly learned a lesson from my doctor.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Quality Feedback

Feedback is one of the most important things we do as educators.  John Hattie's research indicates that feedback is one of the top ten influences on student achievement.  Hattie describes quality feedback as being given against explicit criteria.  Quality feedback also clarifies goals.

Feedback must be of high quality to have the influence on achievement that we desire.  Carol Dweck warns against simply praising a student.  Praising students can inadvertently lead to a fixed mindset.  As an example, if you say "Great job, you are so smart," that might make a student feel good, but it is actually damaging.  It sends the message that some people are smart and others are not.

So how do we avoid creating a fixed mindset and shift to a growth mindset?  How do we make sure to create powerful and meaningful feedback.

Rick Wormeli says to "point and describe."  Use "I noticed that you ____ and as a result _____."  Comment on decisions rather than on the quality of the work.

An example of quality feedback could be:

"I notice that you used humor in your writing and as a result, you held my attention."  This type of feedback is less personal.  Yet, a young writer would take great pride in this comment.  So, it is a compliment, but it doesn't pass judgement.  The person receiving the feedback also knows that if they want to hold you attention, humor is a good way of doing that.  It is informative and it can be repeated.

Wormeli notes effective protocol for data analysis and descriptive feedback uses the following:
Here's what-factual statement with no commentary
So what-interprets the data
Now what-plan of action that might include questions or next steps.

Example: Your students showed above average growth on the Maps test.  This growth was greatest with  your advanced students.  What did you notice in your instruction with advanced students?  How can that be implemented with other students in your class?

The power of feedback is undeniable.  The effect size on learning is significant.  We want to give feedback that is specific enough that children will learn when to utilize a strategy.

I noticed that you read this entire blog post.  As a result, you are now more prepared to give good feedback.