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Ideas for AFL/SBL Exit Slips

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?

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SBL Language grading

I find it interesting that I am described as being "particularly scathing" about the the use of A-F grades because what I have said many times is that the symbols are less important than what they mean. Scott, I agree that what you describe is a lot better than traditional grading because you have a profile of your daughter's achievement in French. My difficulty with what you describe is twofold; one, for three standards the grade is based on one score and because of luck, chance and measurement error no grade should ever be determined based on one score. At this point in the year all that should be reported is the score. Two, I have real difficulty with 85% being a C; where I have lived all my life in two different countries it would be an A so the issue is what does 85% mean? Is her writing proficient, better than proficient or not quite proficient? That is what your daughter and you need to know and 85% doesn't tell you that. 85% is highly proficient in free throws, unheard of in hitting in baseball and unacceptable for landing planes.

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Great teachers are constantly on a journey.  It's a journey toward professional growth, toward perfecting their craft, and toward better meeting the needs of students.  Salem High School Spanish teacher, Paola Brinkley, like so many Salem educators, exemplifies a teacher on this sort of journey.

For the past several years, Salem High School has been focusing on using assessment for the purposes of learning - rather than just for the purpose of grading.  This Assessment FOR Learning journey has led to many changes in our classrooms.  Teachers like Paola have been working to assess daily, to use feedback to guide their teaching, to train students to use feedback to guide their learning, and to grade in a way that allows practice to be used as practice (see Heart of AFL)  These efforts have helped teachers like Paola become more effective teacher and have led to students being more successful than ever.  

Those AFL steps have also led to a recognition of the importance of Standards Based Learning.  Standards Based Learning - or SBL - is a natural outgrowth of AFL.  AFL leads to teachers no longer assessing just to fill a grade book up with numbers to average together; however, teachers are still required to assign a grade to a student.  

Traditional grading relies on an average of all the assignments one does - the practice, the classwork, the homework, the tests, the quizzes, the projects - everything.  The AFL teacher is not satisfied with grading this way.  The AFL teacher realizes that it does not make sense to average formative practice with summative assessments.  The AFL teacher realizes that the most recent evidence of mastery matters much more than the the first attempts.  The traditional practice of averaging everything together just doesn't seem appropriate to the AFL teacher.

So if the AFL teacher isn't going to rely solely on the mathematical average of all assignments to determine a student's grade, what will the grade be based on?  This is where Standards Based Learning comes into the picture.  A student's grade in an AFL teacher's classroom should be based on how well a student is mastering the various standards that comprise the content of the course.

SBL has become the next phase of Salem High School's AFL journey, and Paola Brinkley is one of many teachers experimenting with how best to apply the theories of SBL to the realities of the classroom.  While there is no doubt that she and other SHS teachers will in time discover even better ways to use standards to lead to mastery learning and also to determine grades, the progress report below shows an excellent early attempt at grading in an SBL-manner.  Here's what she and other teachers in her department have done:

  • SHS's World Language teachers have determined that the four key standards of learning a language are Culture, Speaking, Writing, and Grammar.
  • PowerSchool, the grade book teachers in the City of Salem Schools are currently required to use , is set up to average grades together in a traditional non-AFL manner.
  • While wise teachers have eschewed the use of category weights based on types of assignments in favor of a total points grading system, SHS World Language teachers like Mrs. Brinkley are discovering the value of using category weights when the categories represent course standards.
  • Mrs. Brinkley has set her PowerSchool grade book up based on four category weights, one for each of the four key standards of World Languages.
  • When a progress report, such as the one below, is printed for a student the student learns how he or she is doing based on standards, thus enabling the student to identify his or her strengths and to know where he or she needs to improve.

If a student asks how he or she is doing in a class, a numerical answer such as "84" isn't very helpful or descriptive enough.  How does one improve an 84?  Go find more points?  What does "84" tell someone about how to get better, about how to learn more, about how to take ownership of learning?  It doesn't.  "84" - or any other numerical answer - just puts an emphasis on accumulating points.  The AFL teacher wants the emphasis to instead be on learning.  Communication progress based on standards puts the emphasis right where it belongs.

So check out the progress report below from Paola's IB Spanish 1 class.  It happens to be my daughter, Kelsey's, progress report, by the way.  As a school administrator, I'm proud that teachers at our school like Mrs. Brinkley are journeying down this AFL/SBL path.  More importantly, though, as a parent, I truly appreciate this form of communication and find it beneficial as I try to encourage my daughter to do her best.

Notice that my daughter is progressing as she should in three of the four standards.  As a parent, I know that my daughter needs to work on Writing.  Her knowledge of Culture, her Grammar, and her Speaking are right where they need to be at this point in the school year.  Mrs. Brinkley's nice handwritten note is icing on the "excellent communication cake," but the reporting of standards is enough to help me guide my child.  

Is this the perfect way to incorporate SBL concepts into grading? I'm sure there are some SBL purists out there might find fault in the use of points at all.  Those "SBLians" might not like the fact that within the standards there is averaging going on.  Some might prefer the use of a 4,3,2,1,0 or A,B,C,D,F method instead of using numbers 0-100.  

What teachers like Paola have done, though, is creatively communicate based on standards within a grading system and with a grade book that is set up at the district level in a fairly traditional manner. They are helping our entire system - teachers, parents, and students - appreciate standards based reporting and move productively on our professional growth journey. Therefore, this is an excellent step - in fact, a leap - down the SBL road.  

Communication like this is helping to condition parents and students to look at progress not just as a grade but in terms of standards.  For example, if after receiving this progress report I were to ask Mrs. Brinkley about my daughter improving, rather than ask about how Kelsey could earn more points, it would be logical for me to ask how she can improve her writing.  Getting parents and students to think that way is a significant step to improving learning.

Thanks, Mrs Brinkley, for the wonderful communication, and thank you to all the great teachers at SHS who are bravely continuing their AFL journey!

Any thoughts? 

*Additional Note:

The progress report you see below is just that - a report of progress.  It is not a grade that is recorded in an historical record or averaged with some other grade to determine what goes on a report card.  It was given to the student on October 3; however, there won't be an officially recorded grade in the class until the end of January.  The teacher wasn't required to hand out this progress report, and it has no official bearing.  What it is is one way that a teacher is making sure that students and parents are aware of student progress.  It is a snapshot.  It is feedback.  It is given for the purpose of guidance so that students and the teacher together can make appropriate educational decisions moving forward.



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