Assessment & Feedback: Reflecting on the Start of My Internship

These past weeks, I was able to gain some firsthand experience in things that I had only learned about in theory in classes and books until now.   Before I arrived, the seventh grade social studies students were studying the slave trade.  They were also learning about author’s purpose as part of the social studies department working with the English language arts department to promote crossover between content areas.  My mentor teacher uses an online program the school district pays for called Actively Learn to assess students.

actively learn 1

Here is a screenshot of the Actively Learn Post-Test.  As you can see in the image, it allows you to tag questions with learning standards so that you can collect data on how students are doing on specific standards.

I was able to give the students a post assessment using this online tool.  All students have laptops at this middle school.  They are able to log in and submit questions as they move through the test.  As the teacher, I can see all student progress and responses, and give feedback in real time.  The students were very engaged, and eager to make any needed revisions based on the feedback I provided.  The teacher dashboard allows you to compare the students pre-test scores to their post-test scores.  This report can be done for individual students or the class as a whole.  This is good for progress monitoring and collecting data to inform instruction.

Another way technology is utilized in the classroom is through an e-learning classroom called Canvas.  Students submit daily classwork and assignments into this learning management system, which I was then able to grade on my laptop and post quickly to the online grade book.  This allowed for a quick turnaround of feedback so that students could learn and make revisions to resubmit for a higher score.

high five.jpg

Teachers and other staff award the tickets for both behavior and academics.

There are two systems that are in place for giving positive reinforcement and feedback on a school-wide level at my school.  One is to give students High Five slips.  These are tickets that are given as a reward and can be redeemed for prizes during lunch.  I had the opportunity to hand these out to students who were working hard in class.  Students were very excited to receive one, and other students were quick to change their off-task behavior after seeing a peer being rewarded.  An additional method that the school uses, which I absolutely love is postcards!  When students do something good, teachers can look up the student’s address and fill out a postcard which the district then sends out in the mail.  The postcard is colorful and features the school mascot.  I had fun writing some postcards for students that were exceeding expectations in class.  The postcards are something I want to do in my future classroom, even if it is not something used school-wide.  I would have been really excited to get a compliment in the mail from a teacher when I was in middle school.

I have officially completed the first three weeks of my student teaching internship.  It has been a positive and informative experience so far.  In this short time, I have already learned a great deal, set personal goals, and made improvements.   I am excited to continue to grow as an educator.

 

“With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility” The Power of Teacher Feedback

6.4 Using Assessment to Provide Feedback to Students

Teacher’s feedback to students is timely and of consistently high quality.

“With great power comes great responsibility”  

The sage advice Uncle Ben gave to Peter Parker (Spiderman, if you’re not familiar with Marvel) is highly applicable to teacher feedback.  Teachers have the power to profoundly impact their students either negatively or positively with the feedback they give.  The value of feedback to student learning is my biggest takeaway from this course.

feedback-model

This graphic illustrates the process of giving calculated, purposeful feedback to students.

Feedback comes in many forms — formal, informal, verbal, and written.  High quality feedback is value neutral, focuses on intended learning, and identifies strengths and weaknesses.  When giving feedback, teachers need to be mindful of how much the student can address at one time.  In other words, do not overwhelm them with too many things to fix at once.  You do not want to cause the student to give up.  Timing is key, feedback needs to be given within a reasonable amount of time so that student are given optimal time for learning, reflection, and to make changes/improvements.  Descriptive, effective feedback helps promote a growth mindset in learners.  Feedback can be used to strategically close gaps in student learning and understanding.  When a student receives a grade on an assignment, they need to understand why they received that grade.  This includes knowing what they did well, and what they need to work on.  In other words, excellent feedback encourages students to participate in metacognition and to take accountability and ownership of their learning.  Too often, students receive a grade on an assignment without any explanation.  This is a great disservice to the learner.

feedback-7-things

This graphic shows seven helpful pointers concerning feedback from teachers to students.

In my current position as a paraeducator I don’t have opportunities to give formal written feedback, but I will in my future teaching career.  When giving feedback, teachers need to carefully consider their word choice.  I am guilty of verbally giving vague praise and feedback such as “good job” or “nice”.  While these types of statements may make a student feel good in the moment, it doesn’t give them anything valuable or useful to work with.  Research shows that ineffective feedback can do more harm than good.  Since my knowledge of feedback has expanded, I have been working on giving strong specific feedback.  I will tell a student “I like how hard you’re working” or “I like how you are prepared for class and ready to learn”.  This is more powerful than general approval.

As I get closer to my student teaching, I am thinking about the feedback I will receive.  I want to learn and grow as an educator and for this to happen, I need feedback from my mentors. I will be actively modeling the growth mindset I want to promote in my students.  During my student teaching I will need to be receptive to constructive criticism.  This will come easily to me because I like learning from those who have more knowledge and expertise than I do.  I need to be able to translate the feedback I receive into practice and actions.  Feedback is a necessary part of the learning process for students of any age or ability.  As a lifelong learner and teacher, I will be both giving and receiving feedback in an effort to further my own learning and my students’.

Video on Feedback

Sources:

Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007, March). The Power of Feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77, 81-112. doi:10.3102/003465430298487

Seven Things to Remember About Feedback. (2012, August 21). Retrieved from http://inservice.ascd.org/?s=feedback

 

The Value and Application of Advance Organizers

How can you make practical use of an advance organizer?

            At some point, everyone has the unfortunate experience of being on the receiving end of an “information dump” in which we are bombarded with a ton of new information in such quick succession that we cannot possible remember everything we are told.  It is overwhelming, and not conducive to successful learning.

As teachers, we want students to be able to learn in a meaningful way, and remember their newly acquired knowledge in the process.  An educational theorist, David Ausubel, argues that the best way of accomplishing differentiation and integration of content is to use advance organizers.  He is a strong promoter of presentational instruction.  In this type of teaching, the educator must organize and present information to students.  This can be accomplished through lectures, readings, and learning activities that lead students to integrate what they have learned.  Advance organizers are organizational cues.  These help learners build connections between what they know and do not yet know.  It is essentially a framework that assists students in understanding what they will learn.

Prior to introducing new material, teachers should provide relevant introductory resources.  Cultivating student connections between the known and the unknown increases their retention of information.  The objective of an advance organizer is tostrengthen the cognitive structures of students.  This is their knowledge of something, how clear their understanding of it is, and how well organized their knowledge is. “Ausubel maintains that a person’s preexisting cognitive structure is the foremost factor governing whether new material will be meaningful and how well it can be acquired and maintained” (Joyce, p.200).  This means that preparing students for knowledge is essential.  When content is presented in an organized way, it helps learners better organize information in their minds.

Advance Organizer

Figure 1

There are three phases in this model of teaching.  In phase one, the teacher clarifies the lesson goals.  They present the organizer during which they point out the defining characteristics, provide examples, and give context.  In this phase, the teacher is aware of and makes use of the pre existing knowledge their students possess that is relevant to the new content. This concept is illustrated in the diagram in figure one.  In phase two, the teacher presents the materials.  They keep the students engaged, are very clear in their organization, and finally ensure the information is in an order that makes sense.  The third phase is when the educator makes the cognitive organization of the students stronger.  This involves providing clarification, fostering critical thinking about the subject, and ensuring that the new information sticks in the students’  minds.

Advance Organizer Flow Chart

Figure 2

Figure two shows how advance organizers incorporate three important aspects of the learning process.  Advance organizers facilitate a mental framework for the students to incorporate new learning.  It is presented at the beginning of a lesson, and is more broad and global.  Ausubel states that “it makes good organization sense if the presentation of more detailed or specific information is preceded by a more general or inclusive principle to which it can be related or under which it can be subsumed”.  In this way, new information is made more meaningful to students and cements specifics to generalizations.  It integrates relevant facts under common ideologies.

KWL chart

Figure 3

Examples of advance organizers that I have observed are learning objectives and KWL charts.  Learning objectives are posted on the board in the classroom and are frequently updated, usually on a daily basis. It covers success criteria, the daily agenda and the goal of the lesson.  KWL charts are graphic organizers in which students write down what they know about a topic, what they would like to know, and then after the lesson they fill in what they have learned.  For example, in a social studies classroom the teacher may ask the students to do a KWL chart when they are starting a new unit. An example of a KWL chart can be found in figure 3.

As a student, my way of providing myself an advance organizer is to go over questions and prompts prior to doing an assigned reading so that I know what to pay attention to.  Advance organizers are a mutually beneficial practice for teachers and their students.  Teachers are more systematic in the way they transmit new content, and students are more organized in their reception and internalization of it.  In this way, advance organizers set the stage for learning.

 

Sources:

Dees, J. (2011, September 7). Why Advance Organizers Are A Crucial Learning Strategy (and 5 Examples). Retrieved from http://www.thereligionteacher.com/advance-organizers/

[figure 1]

Joyce, B. R., Weil, M., & Calhoun, E. (2015). Models of Teaching 9th Edition. New Jersey: Pearson.

Advance Organizer Basics. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://tccl.rit.albany.edu/knilt/index.php/Unit_Two:_Advance_Organizer_Basics

[figure 2]

Going Beyond Memorization

What is the relationship of concepts to facts?

In order to do this question justice, I must first provide definitions of concepts and facts.  A fact is a piece of information that is objectively true, such as 2×2= 4.  In contrast, “a concept is an abstract idea generalized from particular instances or evidence, so involves an inductive process of thought” (Scheuerman, R).

Bloom Rose.png

Figure 1

Through our own educational experiences, we are aware that there are many things we learned simply through memorization.  This included multiplication tables, the state capitals, and the Periodic Table of Elements.  Knowing and understanding facts, sometimes through rote memorization, is an essential component of learning.  According to Bruner, “instructional results are limited when students merely study the formal outcomes or products of subject matter”.  Remembering specific bits of information or facts is necessary, but limiting if that is all the student has acquired.  When it comes to memorized facts, “the child will use it in a single situation and possibly not even effectively then” (Bruner).

That being said, we need to go beyond this and build upon it.  Simply knowing the facts is not adequate.  If students cannot build connections between old and new learning, they will not be able to effectively transfer knowledge.  Students must develop the skills needed to come up with abstract, complex, deep, higher-level thinking.  They also need to be cognizant of how to apply information to new situations, and use prior learning to form explanations and predictions.  This type of learning and thinking is involved in Benjamin Bloom’s Taxonomy of Intellectual Processes.  In figure 1, you can see an image that represents his categories which are evaluation, synthesis, analysis, application, comprehension and knowledge.  Students need an understanding of facts and concepts to be successful learners.  If educators can facilitate conceptual learning, a student’s education will be more meaningful.  Going beyond memorization is of great importance, especially when cultivating the next generation of critical thinkers.

Bloom Taxonomy pyramid

Figure 2

 

 

If you look at figure 2, you’ll see that memory is at the bottom of the pyramid.  This does not mean it is insignificant, but rather the foundation of growth and development.  We ultimately want our students to be creative independent thinkers.

Sources:

“Blooms rose” by K. Aainsqatsi – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Blooms_rose.svg#/media/File:Blooms_rose.svg

Bruner, J. S. (1996). Some Elements of Discovery. Learning By Discovery: A Critical Appraisal.

Center for Teaching. (n.d.). Retrieved January 24, 2016, from https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/blooms-taxonomy/