Monthly Archives: September 2012

Assessing the Assessments

Just a brief note on an illuminating (to me) incident from earlier in the week: I’m trying to work on better formative assessment of summative assessments – that is, on looking (and listening) for signs that projects aren’t going smoothly, and figuring out (immediately if possible) how best to improve things so that the project is (hopefully) more effective, interesting and successful.

As the number of parenthetical qualifications in the previous sentence probably make clear, I’m in the habit of pausing to think about things from different angles, and am more or less constantly reconsidering my point of view on any given topic. However, when things get underway in the classroom I don’t always notice all the little ways projects might go astray, and these observations don’t always make it into actual improvements. The first step in this process is, I suppose, the noticing.

The scene: I was reviewing the idea of introductions and conclusions with students in Grade 7. I don’t always do this as well as I should, but I do try to take time to explicitly review with students just what type of text or section of text it is that they’re supposed to be producing, with examples and maybe some practice writing. I like to think I’m a bit more conscientious about doing this since an excellent in-school PD session we had on the topic last year (thanks, Mariko!).

So I was saying something like “the introduction is just where you tell your audience what topic you’re going to be discussing, so your audience knows what they’re about to…” and a student said “but we don’t have an audience for this introduction.  It’s just you.” He was right. Why hadn’t that occurred to me? In planning the project, other considerations aside from the elusive “authentic audience” component must have seemed more important, and it got neglected somehow. I’ve already got some ideas on how to address this – but the point is that I didn’t see the issue, a student did – and that if I want to catch on to these things, I have to always be listening.

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