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Ahead of the Curve. SELU Conference. Our “A-HA” Moments. Assessments: Why do we assess our students? How do we assess our students?. Why do we assess?. Assessments occur to provide continual feedback to students and to inform our practice as teachers

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ahead of the curve

Ahead of the Curve

SELU Conference

our a ha moments

Our “A-HA” Moments


Why do we assess our students?

How do we assess our students?

why do we assess

Why do we assess?

Assessments occur to provide continual feedback to students and to inform our practice as teachers

“They want to know if, and to what degree, students are making progress toward explicit learning goals.” Ainsworth, L.B., & Viegut, D. J. (2006)

“Assessments cannot be a one-shot, do-or-die experience for students. Instead, assessments must be part of an ongoing effort to help students learn.” (Guskey, 2003)

assessing our students

Assessing our Students

“When a teacher tries to teach something to the entire class at the same time, chances are, one-third of the kids already know it; one-third will get it and the remaining third won’t. So, two-thirds of the children are wasting their time.” Lillian Katz

why do we assess1

Why do we assess?

Sports Analogy

How is feedback provided to athletes?

What is the purpose of coach?

What are the connections between coaching and teaching?

“I’m not finger-pointing because I think that everyone has to shoulder some of the responsibility for the effort….I guess we have to examine and ask if we’re giving them the tools.”

Frank McCrystal Sept 8, 2008 following 42-14 loss to U of S Huskies

how do we assess

How do we assess?

A number of short assessments given over time will provide a better indication of a student’s learning than one or two large assessments given in the middle and at the end of the grading period.

Marzano, Stiggins, Black, William, Popham, Reeves

assessment for learning
Assessment For Learning
  • The following slides are from an on-site visit I had at Tommy Douglas in Saskatoon
general afl changes
General AFL Changes:
  • Reduce the amount of marks given to formative assessments (Observations, quizzes, homework, instructional questions, drafts) – used more as “practice”
  • Increased amounts of marks given to summative assessments (Final drafts, tests, projects, performances)
  • Increase student choice of assessment method (let the student pick the percentage of his/her mark for different components of the class/individual assignment)
general afl changes1
General AFL Changes:
  • No longer take marks off for late assignments (while finding initiatives to get assignments in on time)
  • TD do not give a mark of “Zero” on individual assignments. We have a code “NHI” which means it is “Not Handed In”. This shows the student can still hand it in when complete.
  • Homework doesn’t often count for marks (found we NEED initiatives for having it done)
  • Increase Self-assessments
general afl changes2
General AFL Changes:
  • Samples for exemplar student work and share with our classes
  • Try to use our best judgement for final grades using best-evidence (not just taking the mean). However, our current computer grading system makes this very difficult.
  • Co-construct Criteria for repeat assessments (things you use over and over throughout the semester)
co construct criteria
Co-Construct Criteria
  • Most teachers have found that co-constructing criteria takes a lot longer than showing the student what is expected (by a teacher-prepared rubric), however, most of us have found that the benefits highly outweigh the required effort.
  • Co-constructing criteria gets kids to own the assignment. They tend to “buy-in” to the assignment if they have helped to develop the criteria.
  • Once developed, the student can self-assess and peer-assess before handing in the assignment
  • TD have found that when you co-construct criteria you direct the lesson, and you throw in suggestions as well, and typically the class comes up with the same criteria you would have constructed on your own! So, it does take more time, but the students understand what is expected (because it is written in student-friendly language), and believe in what they have developed.
general afl changes3
General AFL Changes:
  • Behaviour – a lot of discussion on whether or not to give behaviour grades (attitude & participation) included in their academic subjects (typically 10%)
  • Students are impacted twice when their participation is low. For example, if the student is late or not attending they will automatically get a lower grade because they don’t learn the material as well (scoring lower on exams). We further reduce this mark by giving them a lower attitude and participation mark. Ken O’Connor states that these students are the ones that need a break, not further punishment.
  • As a staff we have gotten rid of the attitude and participation mark
  • Also we realized that activity-based classes like Phys Ed (where participation is part of the curriculum) – should mark in-class participation
behaviour report card
Behaviour Report Card
  • Since behaviour is part of our “hidden curriculum” and is vitally important to teach to our students, our schools did not want to completely remove the “behaviour component” of class assessment
  • Currently some high schools are piloting a “Behaviour Report Card” where the students behaviours are taken out of the academic grade, but reported on the report card
  • All Saskatoon Public High Schools have moved towards a behaviour report card of some type by next school year
  • All RPS elementary schools have moved to a behavior type report card included in general report card
behaviour report card pilot high schools in saskatoon public
Behaviour Report Card Pilot – High Schools in Saskatoon Public
  • Still have a percentage mark (not including behaviour)
  • Number of absences listed
  • Number of lates listed
  • Large space for comments (Strengths/Areas for Improvement/Next Steps)
  • 4 behaviour comments (letter/code answer) for each class (Uses class Time effectively, Completes Assignments, Learns Independently, Learns well with Others)
behaviour rubric from report card on back of the report card explains behaviour codes
Behaviour Rubric from Report Card (on back of the report card – Explains behaviour/codes)
  • R= Rarely O= Occasionally U= Usually C=Consistently
  • NA= Not Applicable IE= Insufficient Evidence
science example
Science Example

Co-Constructing Criteria for labs – rubric to be used all semester (Science 9)

  • At two different schools, give students a few types of gum and have them figure out which is the “best” by doing various experiments
  • Then, have them hand in their results presented how they think a lab should look
  • After whiting out the student’s names, photocopy and send/switch with the other school.
  • Have the students read over the other school’s labs and sort them into most effective to least effective
  • As a class talk about what makes up an effective lab
  • Co-construct criteria for your class’s lab write-ups (make a rubric)
  • Mark a few of the other class’s labs using the criteria
  • Hand back the student’s original lab and have them self-assess their lab using the rubric
  • Allow the student to fix up their lab using the criteria before submitting it for marks
  • The Science department has been doing this for 2 years and LOVES it to teach lab reports!
physical education example
Physical Education Example

Co-Constructed Self-Assessment on a Daily Basis (participation)

  • Students/teacher co-constructed criteria of what a 5 out of 5 looks like in phys ed on a daily basis. Students self-assess their participation every day.
  • Some criteria include:

 I participate to the best of my ability in all aspects of the class

 I am able to participate independently and in groups without direct supervision

 I am on time for class

 I am changed out for class with proper footwear

 I remove my jewelry

 I participate in warm-up without being asked

 I participate in dynamic stretching without being asked

 I show physical signs of my effort every day (ex. sweating, flushed, out of breath,  HR rate)

physical education example1
Physical Education Example

Student Choice (Phys Ed 10)

  • In order to engage students in phys ed, students get to pick from a few different module choices (3 phys Ed teachers work together to teach all students)
math example
Math Example

Evaluate Best Evidence of Learning:

  • Math teachers have decided to only grade work completed in class (that way they are sure the student is the one completing the work)
  • The math teachers have quizzes (short “show what you know” sheets), unit exams, and a final exam. During a unit, they take the best mark the student receives (either the average of all quizzes, or the unit exam) to calculate their unit mark. Then, if the comprehensive final exam is the best overall mark (higher than the unit marks) the student receives that mark as their final grade.
math example1
Math Example

Motivation to Complete Math Homework

  • Math homework no longer counts for “marks”, but we needed initiatives for them to do their homework or they would not complete it because it didn’t “count”
  • Math Homework is to be completed on a daily basis, and the student is to show that it is corrected (use the back of the book)
  • After the assignment is complete/corrected, the student has to show the teacher and he/she signs their homework log to say it is done (keep in mind there are not really “due-dates”)
  • If all homework has been completed by the day of the unit exam, the student is eligible for a re-write if they do not like their mark on the test. The rationale is that they have proven by the homework that they can do it, but the low test grade was not best evidence that they knew what they were doing.
english example
English Example

Portfolio for English 30

  • Students collect evidence (assignments/projects/presentations) of learning for each English 30 Objective throughout the semester (Analytical Reading, Critical Reading, Analytical Listening, Critical Listening, Expository Writing, Comparative Writing, Representation, Oracy, Critical Review).
  • Throughout the semester they put all work into their portfolio, filing it into particular categories
  • At the end of the semester the students include and record assignments from each objective to show they have met the course objective in a proficient manner (the students gets to pick which assignment they include for assessment– not all assignments need to be in the portfolio at this time – they pick their best work)
  • For their final report card the students must self-assess each assignment and write how it meets the specific objective
  • The teacher and the student decide on a final grade depending on their portfolio
english example1
English Example

Motivation to Hand Essays/large assignments in On Time

  • No mark penalty for late assignments, but creative solutions to motivate handing them in on time
  • In English when an essay/large assignment rough copy is handed in on time the student will receive teacher feedback (with no “grade”), but will be able to fix up the assignment before handing it in for evaluation
  • Students who don’t hand in their rough copy do not receive written feedback, and must submit their essay/large assignment without assistance.
  • When the final copy is due, if it is handed in on time, once again it receives written feedback. If it is late, no marks are taken off, but the student only receives a grade and no written comments.
photography example
Photography Example
  • Self-Assess assignments before handing them in
  • Students get to decide how much each component of the assessment is worth (must add to 100)
  • 4 Criteria for each photo assignments:
  • Composition /50 (suggested amount)
  • Photo editing (Photoshop) /20 (suggested amount)
  • Presentation of assignment /20 (suggested amount)
  • Effective and responsible use of studio time and equipment /10 (this amount is fixed)
current research

Current Research

Common Assessments

Periodic or interim assessments collaboratively designed by grade-level or course teams of teachers

Designed as matching pre- and post- assessments to ensure same-assessment to same-assessment comparison of student growth (FWJ Social Studies Core)

“Not standardized tests, but rather teacher-created, teacher-owned assessments that are collaboratively scored and that provide immediate feedback to students and teacher.” (Reeves)

current research1

Current Research

Formative vs. Summative Assessments

Summative – assessment which aims to discover if the learner knows, understands, or can do a predetermined thing” (Torrance & Pryor, 2001, p. 617)

Formative – assessment that aims to discover what the learner knows, understands or can do with intent to inform our teaching or learning as a result (Christensen, 2006)

Current research states formative assessment has a greater impact on student learning than summative assessment

current research2

Current Research


Similar in design and format to provincial assessments

Items should represent essential (Priority) standards ONLY

A blend of item types (short-answer, multiple choice, true/false, matching, etc.)

Administered to all students in grade level or course several times during the semester

Student results analyzed in Data Teams to guide instructional planning and delivery

final thoughts

Final Thoughts….

“Our job is to teach the kids we have, not the kids we used to have, not the kids we wish we had, not the kids who exist only in our dreams.” Dr. Chris Spence