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AFL principles can guide many different types of classroom practices

I just had an opportunity to watch AFL principles being applied in an interesting manner in a teacher’s classroom.

The teacher is Lewis Armistead. The class is Advanced Algebra/Trig. This class is dual enrolled with Virginia Western Community College and includes Math students ranging from pretty strong to our strongest.

Today is the final day of the 3rd grading period and the final day of the semester here at Salem High School. All teachers in our school are required to verify their grades at the end of each grading period to ensure that the electronic grade book has the correct average. Most do this – as I did when I was in the classroom – by spot checking a few students in each classroom. Mr. Armistead, on the other hand, uses this as an opportunity to create a culture of students tracking their progress.

Our school uses Student Planners/Agenda Books from Premier Agendas. In the front of those agendas we have several pages called the Record of Achievement (ROA). (see image below)

When I taught freshmen, our 9th grade teachers required students to use this ROA since keeping up with your grades was a skill that could help lead to academic success. I always figured, though, that requiring higher-level or older students to do this would be a little “Mickey Mouse”. After watching Mr. Armistead today I realized that I was wrong. Even the strongest and oldest students in the school can benefit from a teacher who requires them to use something like an ROA to track their progess.

So here’s what Lewis did:

  • He had each student in the class take a moment to calculate his or her grade for the grading period. To do this the students had to look at their grades in their ROA - and of course they had to have been keeping their grades in their ROA.
  • He then had each student come up to him and compare their calculation with his grade book. If there was a discrepancy then they checked to find out why. If the numbers matched – which they appeared to do almost every time – then grades had been verified.
  • Once the grading period grade was verified they then calculated their semester averages and repeated the process.
  • He then went ahead and showed them the grades they would be receiving for the 4th grading period and had them set up their ROAs.

I share this practice for two main reasons:

1. I think it was a strong classroom practice that others might want to emulate. In order for this to work the teacher must have very consistent procedures and expectations and the classroom must be well-managed. I encourage everyone to add to their “toolbox” practices that lead to consistency.
2. It is an example of how the principles of AFL can be incorporated into all aspects of our classroom. Students in Mr. Armistead’s class have been trained to take all graded feedback and calculate the impact that it has on their grade. This is imperative if students are going to take ownership of their progress. We all wish students would do something like this. Instead of just wishing, Mr. Armistead has chosen to make it happen.

I feel it important to continue to remind people that AFL isn’t "some big new thing" one does. AFL is more the reason and the philosophy behind the things that are done. If AFL principles guide us, then the things we already do will evolve and grow to more effectively provide teachers and students with useable feedback. Mr. Armistead’s practice is an example of this. Because of it, students are being trained how to use teacher feedback to guide their progress. I bet something like this could be applied to your classroom.

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Comment by Paula Kay Gerrol on February 8, 2010 at 8:03am
I agree...AFL is not something new. Special ed teachers have always spent their time coming up with strategies that not only teach kids, but before this can be accomplished we first have to figure out where the breakdown is occuring. It is not a "GROUP" thing where something is taught one way and assessed one way. You can't give a test just because you FEEL like you have given them what they needed to learn. You have to watch the process and fix any breakdowns as they occur. And fixing means the student is taught to recognize this. As the student becomes more involved....less break downs.
Comment by stephen owen kitchen on January 28, 2010 at 9:17am
Very good, and as you said," AFL is not something new" . Lewis, did an excellent job not only verifying grades but making the students responsible .
Comment by Margaret Humphrey on January 27, 2010 at 4:09pm
What a great way to verify grades!

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