My daughter's 7th grade English teacher at Andrew Lewis Middle School uses a time-tested easy-to-apply simple AFL strategy that motivates my daughter to work, helps her to learn, and ensures that her grade is an accurate reflection of that learning.
Every Monday the students are given a pre-test on that week's spelling words. If the student spells 100% of the words correct on the pre-test, then the grade is recorded in the teacher's grade book, and the student does not have to take the post-test. All other students will take a post-test on Friday of that week.
Simple but effective. Students receive feedback on Monday. They now have the rest of the week to work on improving. More importantly, though, is that they know exactly what they need to do to improve.
I'm going to brag on my daughter, Kelsey, for just a moment. She is a terrific speller, and almost always scores a 100 on the pre-test. Knowing that she can get out of having to take the post-test is a wonderful incentive for her to prepare for the pre-test. When she occasionally misses a word on the pre-test, she becomes a very focused and motivated studier when preparing for the post-test.
However, her teacher uses the pre-test in a more powerful way than just as a motivator. Since Kelsey almost always scores a 100 on the pre-tests, the rest of the week's focus on spelling potentially could be a waste of time for her. However, her teacher turns the better spellers into spelling tutors during the week. This gives Kelsey a much-needed opportunity to be a leader. It allows her to have fun serving her peers, and it helps her peers do better on their spelling by providing one-on-one assistance that a teacher would have a difficult time providing during a busy school day.
Most teachers in America have probably tried pre-tests. This is not a ground-breaking strategy. That's the beauty of AFL. To be a good AFL teacher doesn't mean re-inventing the wheel. It means taking the best of what you already do and focusing your purpose toward providing meaningful feedback that gets used by both the teacher and the students.
One word of warning: You can completely mess up the benefit of this AFL strategy by the way you grade. Please do not ever average the pre- and post-tests together or allow the pre-test to factor into the grade at all unless the student reaches the desired benchmark on the pre-test. Otherwise, allow the post-test score - the one that reflects the outcome of the teacher's instruction - to be the one that is recorded in the grade book.
Here's a sure sign that you don't fully understand AFL and how AFL practices will lead to your goal of helping students learn the content you teach:
You teach a primarily fact-based class or are currently teaching fact-based content - such as History, Biology, or Health - and the first time that your students are assessed/quizzed/tested/etc on facts it's on a graded assignment that goes into your grade book and is averaged with other assignments to determine a final grade.
Think about it for a moment. AFL is all about assessment FOR THE PURPOSE OF LEARNING. If you assess your students and put the outcome of that assessment into your grade book - WITHOUT PROVIDING STUDENTS AN OPPORTUNITY TO CHANGE OR IMPROVE THE GRADE AS THEY MASTER CONTENT - then that assessment was for the purpose of determining a grade NOT for the purpose of learning.
There is nothing wrong with assessing for the purpose of determining a grade. You are required to do this as a teacher. However, you are first charged with helping students learn. Your students' grades should be determined AFTER your students have had ample opportunity to learn by practicing and failing and practicing again IF you want the grade to reflect learning. If you give students notes on the facts of your content, have them take a quiz on those facts, assign a grade to that quiz, and then put that grade in your grade book to be averaged with other grades HAS YOUR ASSESSMENT HELPED STUDENTS LEARN?
The answer is yes - it has helped them learn. Now that they realize what they have missed they better understand the content. We definitely learn by mistakes. In fact, we need to give students more opportunities to make mistakes (see this post). BUT IF THAT GRADE ON THAT FIRST QUIZ IS ETCHED INTO GRADE BOOK "STONE" THEN THERE IS NO WAY FOR THE FINAL GRADE TO ACCURATELY REFLECT LEARNING.
Here's an example of what I mean: Let's say a student got a 75 on a quiz about people or vocabulary or dates. If as a result of that 75 the student learns from his or her mistakes and could get a 95 on a similar quiz the next day, then it's safe to say that you have taught them - at least for the short-term - the content at a 95 level. BUT THE GRADE IN THE GRADE BOOK IS A 75. If you are satisfied with this - if you allow this to happen in your classroom - then it's safe to say that you don't really get AFL. You're probably teaching as YOU were taught - or assuming that all students learn in the manner in which you learned - without really thinking about how your assessment strategies and grading strategies are inconsistent. You've taught content, but you're just not really skilled at assessment. You might be doing an excellent job of covering content, but you are not giving your students enough opportunities to practice. Some of your students are probably experiencing a certain level of grade deflation that doesn't indicate the degree to which they are learning from you.
So what are some solutions? How about if before you give and then grade the assignment that will go into the grade book, you first try one or more of these 4 easy AFL strategies:
- Try starting each class or most classes off with a short 5-10 question practice quiz. The practice quiz grade can go in the grade book as long as it can be replaced or improved by a later graded assignment. I guarantee you that your students will master the content better this way than they would if you gave 1 summative quiz/test after taking notes on the content. You could even give the same quiz several days in a row.
- Try ending each class with a quick check for understanding. Take 5 minutes and make sure EVERYONE has grasped that day's main points/terms/vocabulary. You might try this flashcard review method.
- Use white boards once a week to see how well students are understanding the content. Read here to see how this could work in your classroom.
- Start off a unit by giving students a review sheet or rubric. Then have them assess daily how well they understand the content. Here's an example of a review sheet and here's an example of a rubric.
Here's my next question? Why would you not try one of these ideas? Or more importantly, why would you teach something, give a graded assignment on it, and then put that grade into your grade book without FIRST doing a meaningful AFL activity? I can promise you this: If you give your students multiple opportunities to fail content and learn from mistakes prior to putting a permanent grade into a grade book, your students will start finding it easier to master the content in your classroom. And getting students to master difficult content is what teaching is all about.
Geometry is proving to be a challenging class for Kelsey. She is very intelligent and a hard-worker, and while Math is and always has been her favorite subject, she's starting off slower than normal in Geometry. Thankfully, Mrs. Swain uses the kind of AFL strategies that help young people master content.
So far, Kelsey's Geometry class has had 3 large tests. Kelsey scored a D when she took the first test. In many classrooms a large test like this would be used as a summative assessment; however, Mrs. Swain uses tests in a formative/AFL manner. This means that the D was not the end of the story. The grade could still improve since the purpose of the assessment was to promote learning as opposed to the purpose being to provide a grade. Mrs. Swain chooses to use even large chapter tests formatively - like check-ups - rather than summatively - like autopsies. After taking the first test, Kelsey's class was allowed to perform a "test analysis" that led to her mastering the content and earning a 95 A on the test.
Then came the second test. Again, the content was not easy for her, but she worked hard. Kelsey scored a C on that test. Again, Mrs. Swain used the test in AFL manner, and Kelsey again was able to perform a test analysis which resulted in her understanding the content better and earning a B+.
So this brings us to the third test and the power of asking "Can You?" On Monday, October 31, Beth Swain communicated the following message to parents via email:
Good afternoon! The chapter 3 test will be this Friday with the vocab test being on Thursday. To help students prepare for the test, they were given a "Can You"? sheet today. If they can answer yes to all the "can you.." questions on the sheet by Thursday night then they should be prepared for the test. If they can't answer yes then they need to practice those concepts so that they fully understand them. Please make sure your child is making use of this sheet as they prepare for the test.
As always, I am available in the mornings to help them if they need me.
As a parent, I was so encouraged to receive this email. I don't know if your kids are like mine, but there seem to be a few standard answers to the questions my wife and I ask. Those answers seem to be "Nothing" and "I Don't Know." It's always nice to hear from a teacher information that allows me to ask more effective questions. In this case, I was able to ask Kelsey, "How are you doing on your 'Can You' sheet?" All week I was able to encourage Kelsey to make sure she was using the "Can You" sheet as it was intended.
More importantly, though, was the fact that this "Can You" sheet and the way Mrs. Swain used it enabled Kelsey to take better control of her own learning and studying. She was given a tool that assisted her in assessing herself on a daily basis and then making decisions based on the feedback she received.
So on the first test Kelsey scored a D the first go around. On the second test, Kelsey scored a C the first go around. On the third test - the one with the "Can You" sheet - Kelsey scored a B+ the first go around. She told me that she felt much better heading into that test than she had on the previous two.
AFL strategies are rarely "revolutionary". Rather, they are often as simple as asking students "Can You". It's very encouraging to see teachers using strategies like this that empower parents to assist their children and that train students to assess themselves and to take ownership of their own progress.
One of the most common types of assessments used in the AFL classroom is the Exit Slip. AFL teachers find this type of feedback helpful as they assess how successful their lessons are, as they gather data for differentiation purposes, and as they seek to better meet student needs.
The following picture is one used by a teacher at Salem High School. She actually found it on Pinterest - one of the world's great educational resource depositories for sure! Take a look at the exit slip and then scroll down to see more about how it is used.
Notice how this exit slip gives students very direct guidance as to what feedback they should leave. Typically, this will lead to more productive and useful information than an open-ended question will. Also, notice the Standards Based component of this specific exit slip. Students are asked to rate/evaluate themselves on what is essentially a 1-4 scale. This is helpful for moving students away from purely looking at progress in terms of the accumulation of points for the numerator and instead to thinking in terms of mastery. However, you will need to train them on what the terms mean. Below are descriptions of novice, apprentice, practitioner, and expert that need to be taught to students. Once taught these terms, it would make sense for students to be asked to use them for many types of assessments.
Finally, here's an idea for how you could collect the Exit Slips. Take a look at the picture below. By having students place their Exit Slip into the appropriate folder, the teacher saves time gathering data on how the class as a whole is doing.
Note: The terms used on the Board below are different from those used on the Exit Slip above. The pictures did not come from the same source. However, the concepts align well.
So what do you think? How could you apply these concepts and ideas to your classroom? Are you already doing something similar? What have you found works well or doesn't work well? Have you made modifications to improve the practice?
Over the past several school years as our school and division have focused on Assessment FOR Learning as a primary professional development topic, I have consistently noticed the following:
When I witness or hear about an excellent and highly effective teaching practice, essential components of Assessment FOR Learning are present.
I know that might sound like too absolute a claim to be true, and perhaps I've witnessed some exceptions that I am currently forgetting, but it really seems to be the case. At least some amount of what I have dubbed "The Heart of AFL" - frequent assessments, teachers using feedback to guide instruction, students using feedback to guide learning, and grading systems that allow practice to count as practice - seems to show up in every excellent teaching practice I see.
Recently I was in a meeting in which a group of teachers and a counselor were talking about a student's progress with that student's parent. The teachers were explaining to the parent how their classes worked and what the student could do to be successful. Anika Armistead, a Science teacher at Salem High School, explained to the parent that at the beginning of each unit she gives her students a test review. Throughout the course of the unit, she has students assess their progress. At least theoretically, by the time the test finally rolls around the students should have a personalized study guide as a result of the feedback they have given themselves.
Here's an example of the type of study guide Mrs. Armistead gives her students:
You probably noticed that this test review looks pretty much like a typical test review that could be or has been used in classrooms for years. If you noticed this, you are exactly right. You might remember from earlier discussionson this Ning that AFL-ishness doesn't depend on what type of assignment you give. AFL-ishness instead depends on how you use the assignments you give. This is a perfect example of how something as ordinary as a test review can be used in an AFL-ish manner. And when essential AFL components are present - in this case, students using feedback to guide their learning and a grading system that allows practice to be used as practice - excellent teaching takes place.
Read below for Mrs. Armistead's personal account of how and why she uses test reviews in this manner:
A few years ago, I decided to create review sheets for each test. I taught the unit, then a day or two before the test, I handed out the review sheet for the students to complete, check their answers, and ask for clarification on topics they weren't sure about. Some students caught on that the review sheets could really help them, but others didn't and still scored poorly.
Last year while I was out on leave, I got to thinking about how I could make these review sheets more useful for my students. My review sheets were designed to show my students exactly what I expected them to know for the final assessment. So I decided that I shouldn't wait until test time to let them know my expectations. This year, I'm giving each student a copy of the review sheet at the start of the chapter.
I remind my students that the review sheet will not be collected, nor will it be graded. I have heard this comment several times, "Then why should I do it?" I've found that students often decide not to complete an assignment unless there's a grade attached to it. I tell my students that the review sheet is their time to practice and that they will get the chance to prove what they know on the test that will be graded. I know that some students won't complete the review sheet, but I'm not going to change something good for the few who decide not to take advantage of the chance to tailor their studying.
When I give out the review sheet, I remind my students to use this to their advantage. I recommend reading over the questions to see what the students already know. As we progress through the unit, I periodically ask the students to pull out the review sheet. I ask that students complete a section in class (like a chart or diagram) as a way to review something covered the day before, or I write on the board the numbers to the questions the students should be able to answer at that point in the unit.
I tell them to try to answer the questions without using any notes or outside help the first go round. I tell them that if they can easily answer a question, then don't spend too much time studying something they already know. I also tell them that if they don't know the answer to a question, then they need to circle or star that question as one that needs more of their attention.
By using this process, I want my students to see that by tailoring the review sheet to their needs that they will find how to best use their time. Overall, they need to focus on the stuff they don't know (the circled or starred items) and just do a quick review of the material that they already know.
Students are welcome to ask questions about the review sheet at any time. For these questions, I try to guide the students to the correct answer without giving them the answer directly. As we near the end of the unit, I let the students know that they should have the review sheet completed by a particular date, usually a day or two before the test. At that time, I go over the answers with the class to make sure everyone has the correct answers to study. I remind them again to focus on any questions they got wrong or weren't sure about.
On the day we go over the answers, I try to walk around to see who has completed the review sheet and who hasn't. This gives me an opportunity to target those students who didn't use the review sheet as intended. If a student doesn't do well on the test, I suggest they try completing the review sheet as we work through the next unit and not wait until the end to just copy down answers.
Recently I spent a few minutes in the classroom of SHS Marketing teacher Michelle Kovac. Her Marketing students had just turned in projects that day.
When I came into the class the students were in the process of evaluating similar projects turned in by last year's students. Mrs. Kovac had given her students a rubric when they started the project. Now she was having them use that rubric to assess the projects that had been turned in last year. After the students assessed last year's projects they told Mrs. Kovac what grade they had assigned to the projects. Mrs. Kovac then told them what grade she had given. By doing this, the students learned 2 things:
1. They realized that they were harsher graders than Mrs. Kovac was, and
2. They realized exactly how Mrs. Kovac would be grading their projects.
This led to the students falling right into Mrs. Kovac's "trap". After truly understanding how their projects would be graded, the students asked exactly what Mrs. Kovac wanted them to ask - "Can we have some more time to work on our projects?" Mrs. Kovac smiled and told them that they had the rest of the class period to finish their projects. With their new assessment-elicited data in mind, the students literally sprinted to their projects to add finishing touches. It was joy to watch students so eagerly wanting to work on a project, and it would not have happened if Mrs. Kovac hadn't taken the time to train them how to assess.
A student named Zac then made a statement that "one-upped" Mrs. Kovac's excellent lesson plan. Zac told Mrs. Kovac that next time she should let them assess the old assignments either at the beginning or half-way through their work on their projects. That way they could learn from the assessment and make sure they had the best possible project ready to turn in on the due date.
Mrs. Kovac liked Zac's idea and told the class that that was exactly what she would do.
What a great AFL idea. Can you apply this to your classroom? Is there a way you could give students examples of the work you are asking them to do? Could you then train them to assess it the way you do? Would this have any impact on the quality of the work the students did for you? In my opinion, the answer to all of those questions is "Yes".
It's pretty common for a teacher to finish a lesson and still have a few minutes left until the class period ends Here is an extremely easy and practical way to turn those remaining minutes into a meaningful AFL opportunity.
Instead of allowing students to sit and talk quietly until the bell rings, these few minutes can be used as a chance for the teacher to assess his or her students so that the teacher and the students know how well content was mastered that day - and so that they can identify areas that need improvement. The use of AFL flashcards is a simple way to do this.
You will need to create a set of flashcards for each desk in your room. There will be 2 cards per desk. Card 1 will have an A on the front and a B on the back. Card 2 will have a C on the front and a D on the back. You might want to make a pouch out of paper and tape it to the edge of the desk. The 2 flashcards can go in this pouch so that the students always have them handy.
Have you ever finished a lesson by asking questions about the lesson only to have very limited response from students? Perhaps a small handful of students are answering your questions or even asking additional questions, but many in the room have mentally "checked out" and are just waiting for the bell to ring. It seems as though the following question, "Do you have any questions about what we learned?" in student-language means "Go ahead and pack up and start forgetting everything we did". Your new flashcards should change this situation.
Ask all students to pull out their flashcards. Begin asking the entire class questions about the day's content. You could even ask about content learned on previous days. Ask easy question, hard questions, simple questions, and complex questions. Ask the type of questions you expect them to know for a test. They will answer by holding up the appropriate flashcard. You will be able to see how the class as a whole is doing and also how each individual student is doing. The students will gain a more useful review than they would have from the normal question/answer period at the end of class, and, therefore, will be better able to assess their own level of understanding.
You could use the cards to represent various types of answers. For example:
- A,B,C,D could be multiple choice answers.
- A could equal true, and B could equal false.
- A could equal "I can answer that", and B could equal "I am unable to answer that".
- A could mean "I completely understand that topic". B could mean "I sort of understand but am not ready to take a test on it", and C could mean "I do not understand the topic".
This post is a follow-up to an earlier post. It will make the most sense if read in that context.
After reading over my recent post entitled What we WANT students to do v. What we TRAIN students to do, I began to hear in my mind (yes, I sometimes hear voices) questions that some people might have as a result of what I had to say.
The more I think about and experience AFL, the more I feel that I am challenging many of the norms of teaching. In fact, I often end up wishing I could go back to the classroom and do things differently. While I feel I was a very good classroom teacher, much of what I did and many of my practices were:
1. examples of what my favorite teachers had done, and/or
2. examples of the conventional wisdom of education.
Very few of my own teaching practices came about as a result of an overall educational philosophy. I am convinced that AFL is a sufficiently large and all-encompassing enough philosophy as to be worthy of being used by teachers to govern how they teach and create lessons.
As I learn more about AFL, therefore, I continue to find new challenges to the merit of the practices that many of my favorite teachers used and/or that are the conventional wisdom of teaching. Since I know I am not the only one out here whose practices developed from a combination of these 2 factors, I know that posts such as the one I recently made end up raising questions in the minds of many teachers. They are questions worth asking and worthy of answers. Here are some attempts to answer some of those theoretical questions:
1. You talk about internal v. external motivation, but isn't it human nature to be motivated by rewards? Are you saying we should completely change human nature and remove external motivations from our classrooms? Isn't that unrealistic?
I firmly believe that there is a role for external motivation in all aspects of life. As a believer in capitalism, I know that people are naturally motivated by their own good, and I have no problem with this. The Pilgrims learned a long time ago what happens when there is no incentive to work, and the same holds true today. The problem that I perceive lies in the overuse of rewards - in particular the overuse of grades as a reward. I would recommend reading Whale Done by Ken Blanchard. It compares the methods used by Shamu's Sea World trainers to family and business life - which parallel nicely with the classroom. Even when training animals to do tricks, multiple rewards are used. The trainers don't want Shamu to learn that fish are the only acceptable reward for a job well done. When grades are used as the sole or primary motivator in the classroom then the grade begins to become more important than the learning.
2. Are you saying we shouldn't give grades at all?
I am absolutely not saying that we should not give grades. What I am saying is that grades should not be used rewards - ex. do this and get a good grade. There's no reason to turn the whole world on its head by getting rid of grades. Perhaps there might be an idealistic benefit to it, but it's an unrealistic goal that doesn't seem worthy of my time. Grades are a part of schooling. They are not all bad. They should be used - PROPERLY.
3. So what's the proper way to use grades?
Grades should not be used as rewards. The way I see it, grades should be used for 3 main reasons:
1. To communicate how well a student is mastering content/skills so that the student can guide his or her learning.
2. To communicate how well students are mastering content/skills so that the teacher can guide his or her teaching.
3. To summatively communicate the students' final level of mastery.
When I first started teaching I did what my favorite teachers - and what the conventional wisdom of teaching - told me to do. I gave lots of grades so that no one assignment hurt my students.
Today, I would say that giving lots of grades is a good thing IF AND ONLY IF the grades are used for the first 2 reasons listed above. The problem with my grading was that all the grades went into the grade book. I rarely - if ever - used the feedback I received from the grades to guide my teaching. And I hardly ever attempted to train my students to view their grades as feedback that could help them guide their learning. These grades were simply used to average together and get a final grade.
The problem with that is that if I had been honest with myself I would have realized that many - if not most - of the grades in my grade book didn't reflect mastery. They were "practice" assignments or assignments whose outcome was negated by a later similar assignment. Therefore, there was no guarantee that the summative grade to which they averaged was representative of mastery.
This is why I am so thankful for AFL. It's much more than just another professional development effort that my school/system is undertaking. Instead, it is a philosophy that, when truly adopted, turns much of the conventional wisdom on its ear. It is a philosophy that, when applied to a classroom, will lead to teachers being more aware of student needs, students being more likely to take ownership of their progress, and grades that better reflect what they are meant to reflect - mastery.
The other day I was talking with Jamie Garst, a Chemistry/IB Biology teacher at Salem High School. He mentioned that he recently decided to use Smart Pals (a plastic sleeve that allows an ordinary piece of paper to be used like a small dry erase boards) as a way to review in his classroom. (See previous post on using white boards to review) This was his first experience doing this with his students. As he was instructing them on what to do he told them that they would also need a blank sheet of paper. As he started to tell them the reason why, the kids said, "We know - it's to keep track of what we don't know." This was the first time Jamie had done this with his students. Therefore, their knowledge of what to do is evidence of the fact that someone had trained them. It's not natural for students to get out paper to assess their understanding. These kids had been trained by another teacher or other teachers in the school.
As educators, what do we want students to do?
Kudos to Salem High School math teacher, Erin Stenger, for thinking to put a sign like this right next to her doorway where students will see it each day as they leave her class.
It has been noted before on this website that for AFL to truly have its greatest possible impact, the students need to be using assessment-elicited feedback to measure their own progress and guide their own learning. Like most things that we want students to do, though, we must train them to do it. This is especially true for AFL since most students (just like most parents and most teacher) tend to look at grades from a summative position.
If we want students to view grades as feedback that guide their learning rather than just get averaged together to determine a grade, then we must 2 things:
1. We must grade and assess in a formative manner rather than just collect a bunch of scores to average.
2. We must train our students.
This picture in Mrs. Stenger's room is a subtle but important example of this. Most importantly, it reveals the fact that AFL is a core philosophy that permeates the way Mrs. Stenger runs her classroom.
Here are some other blog posts that deal with the same idea of students knowing what they know:
Grading and assessment are two distinct yet overlapped topics. This site is dedicated primarily to assessment - the getting and giving of feedback that helps teachers adjust their teaching and students adjust their learning. However, it is impossible to talk about assessment without occasionally discussing grading. Therefore, grading posts and resources pop up on this site from time to time. As a way to help members find these resources, this blog post has been created as to serve as a collection of grading links. Anything posted on this site related to grading can be found on this blog.
Also, please note that as more examples are added to this site, they will also be added to this blog.
- We're Talkin' 'Bout Practice - a good reminder that sometimes practice should just be practice
- I Want to Be the Starting Tailback - a football analogy about grading practicing interfering with assessment
- Fantasy Football and the Problem with Averaging
- Your Expertise is More Valuable Than a Formula: Provide Descriptive Feedback Rather Than Fractions
- Grading in 3D by Pawel Nazarewicz
- Response to an Email Question about Late Work, Grading, & Responsibility
- Why Grades Should Reflect Mastery, Not Speed by Ryan McLane
- New Terminology: Scoring v. Grading - is it time to add a new tool to our tool bag?
- Of batting averages, grading, and MVP seasons... - Are you ruled by an inaccurate grade book average?
- AFL, Art Class, and Failure Management - Does your grading practice allow for failure?
- What we WANT students to do v. What we TRAIN students to do - Do we unintentionally train students to care too much about grades?
- An AFL Homework Practice - One teacher's plan for grading HW in an AFL manner
- Why is Allen Iverson on Assessment FOR Learning? - An explanation of the video listed above
- Does AFL lead to grade inflation? - A discussion about higher grades as a result of AFL strategies
- Using AFL to Overhaul Your Grading System - ED Leadership article
- Assessing Student Performance in Online Classes - using marks for formative assessments
- Response to a Parent (from Rick Wormeli)
- Grade Like A Torpedo
- AFL Teachers Reporting Progress in an SBL Method (using PowerSchool)
Stories in the News:
Faculty Meeting Conversations
- Homework would still be given but would either not count for points or all homework assignments would add up to one homework grade of approximately 30 points. Another idea I have contemplated would be that at the end of the grading period students with all homework completed would get a reward, perhaps a pizza party, while students with missing assignments would spend that time completing their work.
- Quizzes would still be given almost daily but would now only count 10 or 15 points each. In addition, if a student's test grade was higher than the quizzes that led up to it I would excuse the quiz grades for that student.
- Tests would count more. In the class I taught the tests were used as the ultimate gauge of mastery learning. The tests would continue to build on themselves but would probably start somewhere around 300 points and build up to around 800 points.
- To build on the point I made above, the quizzes would be excused if the student's test grade was higher. The quizzes would be considered practice grades. Students would be trained to not fret about quizzes but to instead use them as ways to gauge their learning. I might even borrow Beth Moody's GPS idea occasionally and allow students to retake an occasional quiz; however, this would probably not be the case for most quizzes since whenever possible I would be repeating quizzes anyway.
- The goal of quizzes would be to practice for the test. In the past I viewed the quizzes more as grades unto themselves. The problem with this, though, was that if I had four 30 pt quizzes before a 100 pt test, then the quizzes added up to more than the test. Adding in the four or five 10 point homework assignments further got in the way. Yes, they were assessments that helped the students learn, but they also had an inappropriate impact on the grade. They could help the student master the content as evidenced by the high test score while simultaneously lowering the student's grade.
- If I was in the classroom today I would add an entire new element of students assessing themselves. I would want students to take control of their own learning. and to know what they do and don't know. I would then want them to use that knowledge to guide their own studies.
- One thing I would do would be to make sure that everyday (if possible) the students and I would both receive feedback. As I prepared my lessons I would ask myself the questions posed in this earlier post.
- When I reviewed with students for tests I would change my method and adopt a strategy similar to this one used by Paola Brinkley and many other teachers in our building. (I would probably find a way to turn it into a game since I love playing games in class.)
- At the beginning of each unit/topic I would give students a rubric like the one in this post. At some point during most class periods I would have the students use the rubric to assess themselves and see how well they are mastering content. They would then use the rubric as a study guide as described in the post.
- I would also have students analyze their grades regularly so that they would know how well they needed to do on a test to reach their grade goal. (Implied in this is the fact that I first would have students regularly set goals.) I would use a strategy similar to this one used by Lewis Armistead.
Salem High School teachers on this Ning know the answer to that. When our school first started taking a serious look at AFL, we realized right away that how you chose to grade assessments could negate the learning that they generated. In other words, if you use AFL strategies well they will lead to an increase in learning. Students and teachers will be using feedback to guide learning and instruction. However, if we want the student's grade to reflect the learning that occurred, we must be very careful and deliberate about how we grade (or don't grade) the assessments we give. Allen Iverson - believe it or not - has something to say about that. Watch the video and then I'll explain.
It's been awhile since I've seen that video. Could someone refresh my memory about what he was "talkin' 'bout"? Oh, that's right - PRACTICE!
First of all, my posting this video is not in ANY WAY making a point about the need to practice when you're on a team. I'm not AT ALL an Iverson fan. It's just posted because it gives us an image to which we can relate - We're Talkin' 'Bout Practice!
If any members of this Ning are going to be attending the Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals annual conference this week in Williamsburg, I would invite you to attend my presentation on The Heart of AFL. It will be on Tuesday, June 28 from 1:30-2:30 and will repeat from 2:45-3:45. Here is a link to the handout for that presentation.
Hope to see some of you there!
The Salem Spartans Football Team has enjoyed great success for many years. People who watch Salem play often comment about how consistently excellent the Spartans are. Year after year they win games, often beating teams that appear to have much more talent. It’s easy to say that coaching is the reason (in fact, coaching is the only logical reason for the year-after-year success), but what does Salem’s coaching staff do that makes the difference? I think a few quotes from recent news articles will shed some light on this.
This quote was in the Roanoke Times and World News on September 12, 2009, after Salem defeated William Byrd:
"I think we're a successful team because we study film a lot and we know when they're running certain plays," [Seth] Fisher said. "We set up a blitz when they were running the quick pitch. I knew it was coming and expected to get the ball. I went for the ball instead of the tackle."
Notice what this player realized. He realized that by studying he could learn. He realized that by mastering the basics of content he could then apply his knowledge to new situations and make correct decisions. This doesn’t happen by studying just a little, and young people don't usually come to realizations like this accidentally. Obviously the coaches gave a lot of feedback and opportunity for practice. By doing so they made the complicated easy. How hard is to predict what someone else will do? Not that hard once you have studied their tendencies and practiced how to react to them.
This quote ran in the same article about the same game:
Salem, stifled on the ground last week in a 35-0 win at Lord Botetourt, got its running game off the ground. Coles scored on runs of 33 and 9 yards in the first half, and Daniel Dyer added a clinching 16-yarder with 11:13 to play. "We got together as a team this week," offensive lineman Kyle Wilson said. "We were more serious ... all of us."
These players (actually, these students) learned that if you get serious and work hard you can improve. First they needed to realize that they had a need to improve. The Salem coaches helped them understand that despite a 35-0 win the week before, these players had a lot of work ahead of them. They gave the players feedback and guided the players’ practice experience. The result was not only another win, but more importantly, the players believe even more in the coaching staff and understand that the feedback they receive from the coaches will help them succeed. They would not have figured this out on their own or solved the problem on their own. They needed the coaching staff to devote practice time to improving from last week.
After Salem beat Cave Spring, the following appeared in the Roanoke Times on October 11, 2009:
Salem defensive back Hunter Thompson intercepted a pass from Cave Spring's Josh Woodrum on the Knights' first play from scrimmage and returned it 44 yards to the 2-yard line. "We went over that route in practice the entire week," Thompson said. "He looked at the guy the entire time. I just ran to it and picked it off."
Similar to the quote from Fisher, Thompson discusses the importance of practice. You can just picture the coaches going over and over the Knights’ pass plays. I’m sure that Thompson didn’t get it right every time. However, the coaches’ gave feedback and taught him and the other players exactly what they needed to know. Come game time, Hunter was able to apply his knowledge to a new situation. The coaches again made the complex become simple.
This quote was in the same article:
"Every time I see one-on-one my eyes light up real big," McGarrell said. "I'm thinking touchdown every time." "Every time we read single coverage, we're on the same page every time," Barnette said.
Again, the complex becomes simple. The players study the opponent. They practice. They mess up. They receive feedback. They practice again. The work is hard. The reward is great.
So what would it look like if AFL strategies weren’t employed by coaches? Frankly it would be ridiculous to even imagine. Can you picture a team where the coach doesn’t give feedback? A team that doesn’t work toward a specific goal of beating the opponent? A coach that doesn’t have kids go over and over things until they get it right?
I doubt you will ever hear a coach say:
AFL is inherent within coaching. Players constantly receive feedback. Repetition is the norm. Coaches study film, analyze practice, and watch players – also known as assessment – so that the coaches can know what they need to do better and emphasize more so that the team can reach its potential.
AFL strategies – repetition, lots of practice AND feedback, teachers USING feedback to guide instruction, and students USING feedback to guide learning – should be just as common in the classroom as they are on the field or court.
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