high (8)

Rubrics are a great way to help students learn from their mistakes and to assess their own knowledge (#5 and #6 of the 6 Key AFL Ideas). In the typical high school setting, rubrics are most commonly used by English teachers to show students how they will be grading essays/papers. Other teachers will sometimes use them to show students how projects will be graded. Essentially these rubrics detail how the teacher breaks the assignment down into specific parts and then show how many points each part will be worth. While there is nothing wrong at all with using rubrics this way, I would like to describe an additional way to incorporate rubrics into the classroom. The use of a rubric is a highly effective and easy to apply AFL strategy. In fact, I would contend that rubrics could be implemented into any content area and any classroom. If you teach content or skills then a rubric then you can use a rubric. For just a moment forget about using a rubric as a way to show a student how he or she will be graded. Instead, think of a rubric as an overview of the key knowledge/skills that you will be teaching during a set period of time – whether it’s a month-long, week-long, or even single-day unit. In this model, students are given the rubric – the overview of content – at the beginning of the unit. At regular intervals – perhaps daily, perhaps every other day, perhaps every ½ hour – students are given an opportunity to look over either the entire rubric or a portion of it and use it to assess their understanding. Students will look over the portion of the rubric to which the teacher directs them and will then rate themselves in one of three categories: 1. Category 1 – Content the student knows/understands and will not forget 2. Category 2 – Content about which the student has questions 3. Category 3 – Content the student still doesn’t know One of the nice side benefits of using a rubric in this manner is that it helps the teacher stay focused on what is most important. Especially with a young teacher or with a teacher who is teaching a specific unit or class for the first time, it is very easy to get sidetracked. Sometimes the content plays itself out over the course of teaching the unit. Often by the end of a unit a teacher might look back and realize that the core content had not received the appropriate level of focus as compared to some less-essential knowledge. By creating a rubric that students get at the very beginning of the unit and by then referencing that rubric throughout the unit, the teacher will be more likely to focus on the key content and to create graded assessments based on that key content. As students assess their understanding along the way, they become more aware of what they do and don’t know. Awareness of what one doesn’t know is a major step toward learning something. When it comes time to study for a summative assessment, the rubric becomes an excellent study guide. Students have rated their knowledge of the content and can spend their time focusing on the lower-rated items. While it is common for a teacher to hand a study guide to a student, it is less common - and much more effective - if a student has a personalized study guide that they have created and of which they have a sense of ownership. So what might such a rubric look like? Below is an example of how a rubric that follows this model might be used in a World History class that is learning about World War One:

(Click on the above image to download a pdf version of the rubric.)
Below is an example of how a rubric that follows this model might be used in a senior-level English class that is reading The Freedom Writers (thanks to Cammie Smith for her help on this one):

(Click on the above image to download a pdf version of the rubric.)
Helpful Hints:
  • 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.
Read more…

AFL and Heart Monitors

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.

Thanks, Ashley!

Read more…
A few days ago I happened to be walking through the library before school. Two female students were sitting at a table doing homework.

One of the students was working on a Math assignment. I heard her ask the other student, "Did you already do your Math homework?"

The other student replied, "No. I wait until after the 'check-up' and then decide if I need to do the homework."

Not knowing the class, the teacher, the exact content, the student, or the student's progress, I can't say definitively that the student was making the wisest decision for herself. However, I LOVE the fact that the student's teacher has obviously been training his or her students to use assessment-elicited feedback to guide their decision-making. It's evident that the "check-up" (what I would assume to be a quiz in traditional educational lingo) is viewed by this student not as an assessment FOR a grade but instead as an assessment FOR learning. Perhaps the student made the wrong decision to not do homework in this instance, but this student is being guided by her teacher down an important path. This student is being taught to assess herself and make decisions based on that assessment.

Are you providing your students with opportunities to assess their learning so that they are aware of what they know and what they do not yet understand?

Kudos to the Salem High School Math teacher who is providing his or her students with regular check-ups!
Read more…
As I have come to comprehend better what Assessment FOR Learning truly means and how its principles can be applied, I find myself regularly thinking about how I would do things differently if I were still in the classroom. After recently observing Paola Brinkley, one of our school’s Spanish teachers, I realized yet another former practice of mine that I would now change. It’s in the area of reviewing for a test or a quiz, and I think teachers of all content areas will benefit from creating their own version of Mrs. Brinkley’s practice for their classrooms. As a teacher, my methods of reviewing for quizzes and tests were fairly typical of many classrooms. I basically did one of two things: 1. Played a basketball review game: This game was always fun. The kids and I both enjoyed it. If a student paid careful attention to each question I asked then they would have heard almost every question on the upcoming test/quiz. While it definitely was possible for all students to get a decent review from this method, in hindsight it had some drawbacks: a. Because I asked one student at a time a question, there was almost never 100% participation – or anything even close to that. b. I was not able to precisely gauge who knew what or what overall problems students were having with the material. Yes, I knew that the kid who kept wanting to answer questions knew it all, and I could safely assume that certain kids knew very little. However, I would not have been able to say with certainty the areas of strengths and weaknesses that the class shared. c. The students left the room having enjoyed class, but they didn’t necessarily leave with a greater incentive to study or with a specific plan for studying. 2. Handed out a review sheet for students to complete: Some years I graded the review sheet. In hindsight I definitely would change that practice. It really doesn’t make sense now to me to grade a review sheet. I understand the point of view that says that the grade might be an incentive for doing the review, but grades should reflect mastery more than be used as incentives (or punishments for not doing work). If a student didn’t do the review that wouldn’t necessarily reflect on his or her level of mastery. These review sheets generally consisted of all the questions on the test. While some students definitely completed the review and thereby raised their test grade, I wonder how much of what I was doing was encouraging memorizing the answers to specific questions rather than truly mastering content. Also, this method of review didn’t let me know how my students were doing in time to help them prepare for the test/quiz since I collected the review on the day of the test/quiz. Finally, I wonder how many students viewed this as a study guide v. just another assignment that just has to be done. How many students simply copied answers from a book or notes rather than really tried to study? Or worse, how many students copied a friend’s review sheet? While the review game and the review sheet are practices with instructional value, I believe that their effectiveness pales in comparison to what I saw Paola Brinkley do in her Spanish 2 classroom recently. Mrs. Brinkley had a quiz coming up the next day. Her objective was to review the conjugation of certain types of verbs. Each student numbered a sheet of paper 1-25. Each student also had a small whiteboard (approx. 8” x 6”) and a dry erase marker. 25 verbs were shown 1 at a time on the overhead. The students would write their conjugation on their whiteboard and hold it up so that Mrs. Brinkley could see it. As she looked around the room she would nod to them as she saw their correct answers. Then she would go over each answer basing her explanation on the answers she had seen written on the whiteboards. Students would then write on their numbered paper the verb, whether or not they got it right, and any other information about its conjugation that they needed to remember. At the end of the class period and after having gone through all 25 verbs, Mrs. Brinkley reminded the students that their numbered sheet of paper was now their own personalized study guide for the next day’s quiz. I’m sure you can see the simplicity in this activity, and, hopefully, you can think of some ways to replicate it in your own classroom with your own content. As you do, I think it’s important that you remember the key AFL factors present in this review: 1. 100% Engagement – The students really appeared to enjoy writing on the whiteboards. This activity lends itself to a high level of engagement which means the teacher will get maximum feedback, as opposed to the one-at-a-time feedback I received during my basketball review or the not-at-all feedback I received from my review sheets. 2. Feedback for the Teacher - AFL is a process by which a teacher gains feedback that impacts his or her instruction. By seeing all of the answers at one time from each student, Paola was able to shape her review based on their needs. For example, several times throughout the class period she reminded the students that they would lose points the next day if they did not use accent marks. She knew to remind them of this from the fact that they were not using accents on their whiteboards. She also stopped several times and went into greater depth explaining verbs with which the students seemed to have the greatest difficulty. 3. Feedback for the Students - I think the most powerful aspect of AFL is when students themselves are given feedback that they can use to guide their own personal learning. Sometimes students are intimidated by the idea of studying because in their minds it means go back over every single thing they’ve learned. This seems like too large a task to complete, so many don’t even try to start it. It also wouldn’t be a very efficient way to study. After all, why spend time studying something you have truly mastered? Each student left the class that day with a personalized study guide – something that Mrs. Brinkley wisely reminded them. Whether or not the student chooses to use the study guide is one thing, but each student received the feedback they needed to know exactly how to focus their studying. Surely this will increase the odds that students will study, and most important, it should guide learning. Mrs. Brinkley's students (as the 6th of the 6 Key AFL Ideas states) knew what they needed to know so they could know if they knew it. This simple and easy-to-apply activity captured the essence of AFL – teachers and students basing teaching and learning on feedback that they are receiving from assessments. I wish I could go back and use a version of it in my World History classes. I would encourage you to consider how you might apply it to your content area. Any thoughts?
Read more…
I would imagine that many Physical Education teachers must feel as though much of the professional development activities and workshops in schools do not apply to them. Typically, discussions of state standards and NCLB expectations dominate these discussions. While these apply to PE, they apply in a different manner than they do in a core area classroom. And let’s face it, PE is a very different world from the typical classroom. PE teachers are dealing with a completely different environment than most other teachers. They are dealing with a different set of behavior issues, a different set of classroom expectations/procedures, and a different set of skills than other teachers are. One reason that I have become a big fan of Assessment FOR Learning is the fact AFL principles are universal. Even though a PE classroom differs greatly from a regular classroom, AFL ideas still apply and can still help students learn in such a setting. I have spoken with PE teachers who can see how AFL could be used in teaching and assessing certain skills in PE – such as foul shooting (I’ll share such an example in a moment). Along with AFL comes the importance of accurate grading practices – grading that reflects mastery of content and skills. However, the trend in PE these days is to move away from grading based on the mastery of skill acquisition in favor of participation and effort. Therefore, one could conclude that AFL would not be appropriate to use in the PE environment. The trick is to separate assessment from grading. The purpose of AFL is to assess in a way that helps students learn. The purpose is not to assess to get a grade. While a grade may be an outcome, it is not the primary goal. Therefore, one can assess a student (create feedback that can be used to guide learning) and still not grade based on those assessments. Let me explain. I regularly work out in our school’s weight room. When the football players are there lifting weights, they each carry around a piece of paper with a chart on it. They use this chart to keep track of their lifting. They each have goals that they would like to reach for various lifts. The coaches let them know how much they should be lifting each week if they are going to reach their goals by “max out” day. The players make sure that their progress is matching the path that leads to their goal. While perhaps no one has called it this before, I think that the weight lifters are participating in an AFL activity. They are part of a “planned process in which assessment-elicited evidence of students’ status is used by… students to adjust their current learning tactics.” (James Popham) They are taking ownership of their progress. They are aware of what they need to do to achieve a goal, they are constantly assessing how they are doing, and they are adjusting their lifting patterns to make sure they reach the goal. No one is grading them based on how much they lift. However, because of the feedback they are receiving and the way they have been trained to use that feedback they are getting stronger and stronger This is an example of how AFL can be used to teach an athletic skill. So let’s say that the skill being taught is shooting foul shots in a PE class. The students could take a pre-assessment by shooting 10 foul shots. They could then set a goal for improvement. Then the teacher could demonstrate/teach/instruct the students on the various sub-skills necessary to shoot a foul shot – proper foot placement, bending knees, holding the ball properly, where to aim, arm extension, wrist/hand motion, ball rotation, arc of the ball, and follow through. Students could learn a sub-skill, practice it, assess how well they are able to use the skill, and chart the impact that it has on their foul shooting as they repeatedly apply their new skills to the act of shooting 10 foul shots. They could work to assess/critique each other as well. As someone who has never taught PE, I’m sure that the model I just described has some flaws. I’m sure it could be tweaked to be made more practical for a PE setting. However, it is an example of AFL. AFL isn’t always teachers using assessment data. In fact, AFL is probably at its most powerful when students are using the data themselves to guide their own learning. In a skill-based class like PE this is definitely possible. Now, here’s the kicker: the result of the self-assessment – in other words, how well the student can shoot a foul shot when the unit is finished – does not have to have any impact whatsoever on the student’s grade. Instead, the grade the student earns could come from how diligently the student completed the self-assessment process. A daily grade could be earned based on how completely the chart was filled out each day. A final unit grade could be assigned based on the completed chart. This would be a more objective way to grade than a perceived level of participation or simply dressing out. It would be an accurate grade of effort and achievable for all students. (Of course, I realize that does not mean all students will decide to achieve a good grade.) But again, the point is that the Assessment FOR Learning practices are there to help the student learn the skill, and the grade does not have to be based on the mastery of the skill. Assessing and grading are two very different things. Assessment in AFL is all about getting students to learn.
Read more…

Assessment FOR Learning on the Football Field

Sometimes when you are trying to understand how an idea applies to a certain arena, it helps to have an example from a completely different arena. In that vein, here is an example of how AFL strategies have been used in high school football. Football? Yep.

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:
“I told them what to do; it’s their responsibility to do it. I’m not going to baby them by going over and over things. I’ve already played high school football successfully; it’s not my problem if they don’t get it right. Back when I was a kid football players weren’t coddled by coaches who guided their practice and worked side-by-side with players to help the team achieve its goals.”

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.
Read more…
I plan to create a series of posts that will help teachers better understand AFL so that they can apply AFL ideas into their classrooms. One way to do this is to define what AFL isn’t. AFL isn’t replacing quiz grades with test grades. However, replacing quiz grades with test grades could be AFL – does that make sense? Here’s what I mean: When a good AFL idea is shared with a faculty it is very easy for people to begin to see that idea as a definition of AFL instead of one example of how AFL ideas can be applied. With my own faculty at SHS and on this site I have recently shared an excellent example of how a teacher at SHS (or as it turns out, the majority of the SHS Math Department) is letting sections of unit tests replace grades earned on previous quizzes that correspond with that section of the test. (For more on that click here.) After a meeting with our school’s AFL committee I realized that based on that post and on other discussions we have had as a faculty, it would be easy to assume that our school was expecting teachers to apply AFL in this manner. In fact, it could be easy to assume that this example was what AFL was all about. Such an assumption would be wrong. Not all classes assess in the same manner. Therefore, if this one example was AFL then AFL could not apply to all classes. The beauty of this example is that for this teacher, or these teachers, it is a way for their assessments to be used in an AFL manner. Before going any further, let’s look at a definition for AFL: AFL is a planned process in which assessment-elicited evidence of students’ status is used by teachers to adjust their ongoing instructional procedures or by students to adjust their current learning tactics. (James Popham) Also, let’s remember something that has been stated repeatedly at Salem High School regarding AFL: AFL is about how the results of the assessments will be used – not what the assessments are. The example shared in my previous post is an example of AFL practices being put into place because it is an example of a process in which assessment-elicited evidence of students’ status is used by students to adjust their current learning tactics. The types of assessments being used – essentially traditional quizzes and tests – are nothing new or groundbreaking. What is exciting – what makes this an AFL example – is HOW these traditional assessments are being used. Typically, when quizzes and tests are given they serve as a series of summative assessments. While in theory a student should use the results of the quizzes to study for the test – and many students have done just that – there is not a great incentive to do so. Even if the student improves on the test the quiz is still averaged into the grade. While we would like to think that the student would see the quiz as a learning experience, in many cases the quiz is viewed as simply another grade in the series of grades that determines the final average. However, when the math teachers at SHS explain to their students that the test will be an opportunity to not only show that they have learned but also to change a previous low grade, the incentive to study for the test has been increased. As a parent I saw this occur this very morning when my daughter, who normally does not like to go into a classroom before school for extra help, went to her math teacher on her own volition this morning to get help. Kaitlin knows that she has an opportunity to raise her grade and is, therefore, working harder than normal. And with hard work comes learning. Don’t be confused about the grade part either – AFL isn’t about making sure that a student receives a high grade. AFL is about making sure that a student learns. Of course, a higher grade will probably come as a result (unless the teacher’s grading practices are flawed), but the grade is secondary to learning. The beauty of the way the SHS math teachers are operating is that they are putting assessment data into the hands of students and then providing them with an incentive to use that data to change their learning tactics. That is why this is an AFL technique – because assessment is being used to encourage learning instead of being used primarily to create a grade. Does that mean that all teachers must use this same strategy in order to be using AFL ideas? Of course not. What teachers need to do is to look at the assessments they are currently using and determine how the data that comes from them can be used by students or teachers (and it’s most powerful when it’s used by students) to enhance learning. In future posts I will share some more ideas of how this can be done. But for now, remember: You don’t have to come up with new assessments to use AFL. Instead, you need to make sure that your assessments are used more to guide learning than to simply create a grade.
Read more…

6 Key AFL Ideas

The 2008-2009 school year was my school and school system's first year exploring Assessment FOR Learning/Formative Assessment. It was definitely a learning year for all of us.

Over the summer of 2009 I spent some time thinking back on what I had learned about AFL during the year. I thought about conversations that had occurred on our school's AFL Committee. I thought about time spent with individual teachers as we worked together to implement AFL practices into their classroom. I thought about articles and books I had read, videos I had watched, and many other AFL-related staff development opportunities in which I had participated.

The result was that I entered the 2009-2010 school year with a much greater appreciation for AFL. I had come to see how all-encompassing it really was - how it could truly impact our entire approach to instruction. I also realized that it was very easy to have misconceptions of exactly what AFL is all about.

All of that led to what I call my 6 Key AFL Ideas. When one understands and can apply these 6 ideas, AFL will have a positive impact on instruction and learning. However, when any of these ideas are missing or not understood, it seems to me that AFL loses its effectiveness or perhaps isn't even present.

6 Key AFL Ideas
1. Assessment and grading are not the same thing.
2. There aren’t AFL assignments and non-AFL assignments.
3. AFL provides a framework or reason for why we do what we do.
4. Assessment for LEARNING as opposed to Assessment for GRADING.
5. We learn from our mistakes.
6. Students need to know what they need to know so they can know if they know it.

Now let me explain in a little more detail what each of these ideas means:

1. Assessment and grading are not the same thing.
Try not to get into your mind that AFL means changing or altering the way you grade. AFL means assessing to help students learn. This can be done without grading. However, if you don’t grade well you can negate your AFL efforts. In other words, if you use all sorts of assessments to provide feedback to students and as a result your students learn, but then you grade in a way that causes their grades to not be reflective of their learning, then the AFL was negated by the grading practice. While assessment and grading are not the same thing, you must be willing to grow as needed in your grading practices as you grow in your assessment practices. But remember - when one speaks of assessing students it doesn't have to mean grading students.

2. There aren’t AFL assignments and non-AFL assignments.
AFL is HOW you USE assignments, not what assignments you use. Something has an AFL purpose if you
and/or the students use the feedback to further learning. All assessments can be used for an AFL purpose. AFL doesn't mean you will have to completely change the types of assessments you use. What it means is that you will be very cognizant of how frequently you assess so that you can provide very regular feedback to students.

3. AFL provides a framework or reason for why we do what we do.
AFL is a philosophy. When we attach a name or meaning to what we do, we are more likely to do it. A lot of people hear about an AFL strategy and say, "I already do that." But here's the thing - why do you do that? Education is not an exact science. Many of us stumble on certain activities or procedures that work. But do we understand why they work? If we have a governing philosophy for WHY we do things, then we are more likely to continue and even increase our doing them. Instead of doing something because we've always done it, we instead do it because it falls into our governing philosophy. This will most likely lead to that practice being enhanced and more practices like it being added to our toolbox.

4. Assessment for LEARNING as opposed to Assessment for GRADING.
Don’t be afraid to assess and not grade. Think of other ways to give feedback besides a traditional grade. Don’t get locked into the idea that you must average all feedback in order to determine a grade. Just because you give some sort of feedback doesn't mean the "grade" has to count into the whole. That is a box that educators find themselves in too often. It results in us grading student practice too much. The student ends up learning because of our teaching, but then gets a grade lower than their learning because of our grading. Assess for the purpose of learning.

5. We learn from our mistakes.
When a student makes a mistake in your classroom (does poorly on an assignment) can that mistake be used
for instruction and learning? Or does it always inherently lead to a lower grade and, therefore, discourage
learning? We all know that in life we usually learn the most from our mistakes. Too often in education students don't have the chance to demonstrate that or to erase their mistake. If students realize that they can learn from mistakes and then fix them then they will be more likely to take chances.

6. Students need to know what they need to know so they can know if they know it.
I have come to view this idea as perhaps AFL at its most potent form. If we use AFL properly we can empower students to take control of their learning. If students are regularly - preferable daily - given assessment feedback and then taught how to use it, they are more likely to grow into the types of learners we want them to be. They will gain skills that will carry them beyond us and into future learning experiences. Consider using rubrics on a regular basis. Let your students know your thoughts on AFL. Explicitly describe why you are assessing and doing what you do. Encourage/teach/require them to assess themselves.

I hope those 6 ideas make sense and that they help you out as you try to apply AFL to your classroom. Let me know if you have any questions or thoughts.
Read more…

Blog Topics by Tags

Monthly Archives