Wow, what a class. I honestly think this is the most I have gotten out of a class in a long time! Not once did I feel as though my time and effort were being wasted. I enjoyed learning everything that I did, and although my submissions (such as this one, even!) seem to happen at the final hour, I feel as though I put my best efforts in and I got so much out of the class in return. Thank you, Spencer and Colin, for a fantastic course, and thank you for your individualized, prompt, and meaningful feedback. Knowing that my submissions would be read and responded to with genuine comments made it much easier to stay motivated throughout the semester and I feel like I learned so much from that!
And now, without further ado, here is “Proof That I Learned.”
Module 1: Foundations of Assessment and Evaluation
Major Takeaway(s): The biggest takeaway for me from this module was the distinction among assessments of, as, and for learning. I had never considered that before, and as I worked through this class, I found myself identifying if my assessments in my teacher-life fell into each of the categories. It was also comforting to know that as I worked through iterations of projects, that it was never a one-and-done type assignment; I was encouraged to grow and learn from what I’d submitted previously. Prime examples of that are my Rubric 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, and 4.0. At first, I felt like I was fumbling around, trying to determine what on earth I was supposed to be getting out of these assignments and readings, but eventually I figured it out. Rubric 1.0 is pretty rough, and I think it was pretty obvious that I didn’t quite grasp what I was looking for, but since it was an assessment AS learning, I knew I could grow and learn from it. I also learned about the assumptions we make about students and what they know. I’d only ever considered them at a surface level, but after this module, I began examining them more closely in my professional life.
Looking Forward: As I stated above, I have begun attempting to identify if assessments I give in my own classes are assessments of, as, or for learning, and I am trying to incorporate each of those into my courses. I want my students to learn to love learning simply for the sake of learning, and by feeling comfortable trying and making mistakes, and then learning from those mistakes, I think they will benefit more than I could ever imagine.
Module 2: Assessment Driven Instructional Design
Major Takeaway(s): In module 2 was where we really started getting into formative assessment and what it really is. I remember reading this statement the first time through the module and it really resonating with me: “If the instrument is poorly designed and does not actually tell me anything real about students’ understanding, then the instrument and the information it has generated will have no value. If this is the case, and the information from a poorly designed instrument is used to inform instruction, then students’ learning may suffer rather than improve.” A well-designed assessment instrument can give incredible information about what a student knows and in what direction you should bring him/her. I wrote a critical analysis of the “Mid-Module Quiz,” which is a common assessment given in math classes, where I applied the principles of UbD. I also tweeted that I was tickled to find that some of the policies in place with my virtual school are ones that Marzano mentioned as best practices!
Looking Forward: I have started tweaking my mid-module quizzes to better reflect the best-practices of formative assessment. Since the purpose of the quiz is to inform my instruction for the remainder of the module, I want it to give me the best data possible. I am obligated to give pre-made quizzes (I teach for a virtual school), but I also have added questions and make it a point to incorporate some of the skill checkpoints into my weekly check-ins with my students.
Module 3: Feedback
Major Takeaway(s): I loved this module. Feedback is something very important to me, as I am someone who gets very frustrated when my efforts are not taken seriously or when I can tell that the feedback I’ve received has been copied and pasted to several students. I take my job of providing students with feedback on their progress and mastery very seriously. Hattie and Timperley wrote that when feedback becomes more than just informing a student on his/her “correctness,” and incorporates instruction and constructive criticism, the student is more likely to learn something from that feedback that is actually applicable. I strive to do this every day, as I want my feedback to be as meaningful as possible to my students.
Looking Forward: The list of tools to give students feedback was the best part of this module! I have those programs all bookmarked and have a goal for Christmas break to figure out a few of them and how to incorporate them into my courses. I’m trying to figure out what will help me save time and be more effective to my students. It’s so hard to learn math by reading a paragraph and looking at a sample problem, so I know it would help students to have either video or auditory feedback (a plus would be being able to watch me work out a sample problem while they hear me talk about it!).
Module 4: Designing Formative Assessment in Digital Contexts
Major Takeaway(s): I enjoyed this module because of my current employment for a virtual school in Florida. While many teachers are trying to just incorporate technology into their classroom, my entire classroom is completely digital. This presents its own set of challenges, though; it’s not all rainbows and butterflies! One takeaway I had here was in regards to young people today being true Digital Natives. So often, we make an assumption that all students seem to be born with an innate love and affinity for all things technological, but that just simply isn’t the case, and I see that daily in my own classroom. I assume that my students can attach a document to an email, can insert a photo into a document, and can do basic troubleshooting on their own. These are not safe assumptions to make, as only a handful of my kids are digital natives, but the others need to be taught (and taught explicitly!) how to do and use these skills.
Looking Forward: I made videos for my students, walking them through various skills that are needed for success in my (and other) virtual courses. These are short how-to videos for when a student is lacking in a particular skill. I plan to continue offering these short videos to them as I discover other skills they need.
Module 5: Content Management Systems
Major Takeaway(s): In this module, I really enjoyed being able to explore different CMS’s. My ultimate favorite was Canvas, because of the options it gave me as a teacher for both assessing and giving feedback to my students. I wrote here and compared three different CMS’s. Prior to this module, I though the one I used with my school was awesome; however, after comparing it to Canvas and Schoology, it’s obvious that Educator is inferior. The very first school I taught at was an alternative school and it felt like we were stuck back in the 90s with the materials that I had access to at the time. We didn’t use a CMS, but I was fresh out of college and considered myself very much a digital native, so I always wanted to use one effectively. This assignment gave me a chance to explore very specific parts of each LMS.
Looking Forward: I am required to use Educator with work, but am toying with creating a Canvas course for additional help and review as I work with my students in Educator. I just don’t have the freedoms in Educator that I have in Canvas, including video feedback and creating assignments with multiple assessment types.
Module 6: Using Digital Games for Assessment
Major Takeaway(s): I think my takeaway here may be different than most from this course, since I was unable to actually us the Minecraft program for the intended assignments. Rather, I used Angry Birds and described in this and this the limitations and difficulties of technology in assessments. We can plan the best lessons and activities, but unless the technology is flawless, there will always be someone or something that prevents the entire group from being able to complete the activity. “The best laid plans oft go awry,” #amIright?
Looking Forward: I am tweaking my Angry Birds assignment as well as my assignment from FAD3.0 to actually be able to use them in my class. I’m not certain if it will work out to do the assignments this year or not, but I definitely want to include them at some point because it will be a great representation of my students’ true mastery of the information.