- The teacher will have to guide/train students about how to use the rubric in this manner. Don’t expect magic the first time.
- This will work best if the teacher provides class time for the students to use their rubrics.
- The teacher might want to keep the rubrics in the classroom so that they do not get lost. Students might not take them home until the night before a large test/quiz/graded assignment.
- Be very explicit with your students about the purpose of the rubric. Don’t let this become just another "thing". This could be yet another worksheet provided by a teacher but not effectively used by students. Instead help your students view self-assessment as a core learning strategy and something that they can apply to future classes/learning. Help them view the rubric as a key to success.
Often, the most profoundly powerful concepts are simple at their core. AFL is such a concept.
Doesn't it just make sense? If we want young people to learn content or skills, we need to gather feedback - and help them gather feedback - on how their doing in relation to specific standards and then use that feedback - and train them to use the feedback - to guide learning.
It's a lot like going to the doctor when you're sick. You tell the doctor what's wrong with you so he or she can use your feedback to guide the application of medical treatment. You would never think of NOT telling the doctor your symptoms - unless you weren't interested in getting better.. It's just common sense. It's a simple practice that leads to powerful results. There's no reason the classroom shouldn't function the same way - unless we're not interested in students actually learning....
The PE Curriculum of Salem (VA) City Schools has changed in recent years to have a primary focus on fitness as opposed to the traditional game-based physical education. The goal is to teach a student what she needs to be able to maintain a healthy lifestyle for a lifetime. Kids are taught to:
- analyze their own fitness activity,
- recognize various fitness levels,
- analyze their heart rate and how it relates to fitness levels
- determine what type of activity is required to reach various fitness levels
All of these skills will help students take control of their own physical well-being and live healthy lives.
Recently I was in a PE class at Salem High School taught by Ashley Mathis. Mrs. Mathis did an excellent job incorporating the goals of Salem's PE curriculum into her activity. Her students were working out in the school's fitness room. They were paired up at stations around the room. The students would be active for two minutes at their station. After two minutes they would stop, measure their heart rate, and then rotate stations. They had a goal of being in a certain fitness level for a certain number of minutes. They used the feedback from taking their pulse to increase or decrease their intensity at the next station appropriately.
My first thought as I watched the class was that this is what a PE class should look like. All kids were engaged. All kids were active. All kids were working hard. And - at least as best I could tell - all kids were having fun. This was a meaningful class teaching students meaningful skills that have the potential to lead to healthy and active lifestyles.
But the other thing I thought was how natural the principles of AFL fit into this the class. To make a big deal out of this class's "AFLishness" seems unnecessary because it seems so natural or normal. Yet there is something profoundly important to be learned from once again realizing how to best use assessment in the classroom. Specifically, in Mrs. Mathis's class:
- The assessment strategy was well-planned and intentional, rather than an after-thought. Assessment was woven into the activity and integral instead of something additional that was done when the activity was over.
- The feedback was constant and given throughout the activity - every 2 minutes to be exact. Students always knew where they were and how they were doing. They didn't have to wait until everything was finished to see how they did.
- The teacher used the feedback to know how to encourage students and how to direct their upcoming activities.
- The students used the feedback to self-regulate and take control of their own growth.
- The assessment was unrelated to a grade. Instead, the assessment-elicited feedback was directly related to growth and learning.
AFL is how people learn. It's not just how we learn in school. It's how we learn period. It seems so simple, yet sometimes the bulleted list of principles evident in Mrs. Mathis's class are not evident to the degree they should be in our classrooms. They need to be. Whatever you teach, use this PE example as a model on which to base your assessment strategy.
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.