As this course began, I had just finished my tenth year of teaching 4th/5th grade in Lake Washington School District (LWSD). LWSD is very standards-focused and has strong support for teachers to formatively and summative assess students, both using provided assessments and using teacher-created assessments. One of the things I like about LWSD is that teachers (at least at the elementary level) have a lot of freedom to determine what assessments they think will work best for their students, as opposed to being rigidly assigned assessments all year long and across subject areas. Therefore, I have developed many formative and summative assessment across all subjects for upper-elementary students, and have revised/improved them over the years.
I have completed an especially extensive revision of my assessment tool set the last couple of years as our state fully adopted the Common Core Standards (2016). Given all of that, I was still excited to take this course because I knew there were techniques and concepts I either under-utilized or wanted to know more about, especially related to writing feedback. I was also excited to fully design (including formative and summative assessments) a new Bill of Rights unit that I will be teaching this fall. My learning progression for this new unit can be found as a Google doc at https://docs.google.com/drawings/d/1K32EsC8K-SShJEv8d8QNi4Tcky5EAYaFkTIcs995DCc/edit .
By studying different formative assessments(FAs) through the course I was able to incorporate a wide variety of FAs in my Bill of Rights unit, and do so in a manner that took advantage of my new learning. One type of FA that I felt improved based on my new learning was question design for multiple choice response. I have already used quick response, multiple choice questions for FA using Activevote devices and have found it very useful. William (2011) calls these “hinge questions” and describes them as follows: “it should take no longer than two minutes, and ideally less than one minute, for all students to respond to the question.. ..Second, it must be possible for the teacher to view and interpret the responses from the class in thirty seconds (and ideally half that time).” (p. 101) That part I already understood. Dylan went on to provide very concrete examples of types of questions, and what variety of answers make for good hinge questions. This helped me be more deliberate and purposeful in what wrong answers I will provide for an all-class, multiple choice FA question.
Therefore, my questions were more diagnostic and will more consistently provide opportunities for discussions. These discussions will improve student understanding by having students justify the answer they chose. The first learning target in my Bill of Rights unit is to identify the need for and purpose of the Bill of Rights. I created a hinge question with wrong answers that I believe will highlight common misunderstandings, be a good stepping-off point for a discussion, and, in the end, result in greater understanding of the learning target by the whole class.
My Assessment into Action paper assignment was also very useful because it allowed me to revisit best practices related to the written feedback teachers provide on student writing assignments. This paper can be found at:
My research uncovered a series of studies completed by UCLA researchers that proved how important it is to provide meaningful, content-level feedback to students. Clare, Valdes, and Patthey-Charvez (2000), Matsumura, Patthey-Chavez, and Valdes (2002), and Patthey-Chavez, Matsumura, and Valdes (2004) all found that teachers were providing little content area feedback on student writing projects. Most of the feedback was related to conventions and grammar and was very prescriptive as opposed to getting students to think. As a result, students writing showed little improvement after they received the teacher feedback and revised their papers. While I have already been committed to providing content level feedback, the UCLA work plus the recommendations made by William (2011), Brookhart (2008), and Peterson (2010) have pushed me to reconsider giving any conventions/grammar feedback during early student drafts unless the paper is not understandable due to grammar/convention errors.
As a result of the complete course and my Assessment into Action paper, I was able to create an action plan related to providing teacher feedback on student writing assignments that I believe will improve student achievement. Some aspects of that action plan that I believe were a direct result of the course and my research include:
- provide read experience feedback (e.g. “this description had me laughing out loud”, or “I was totally hooked after reading your introduction”)
- Have a system in place where both the teacher and student can track when, where, and how feedback was addressed.
- Log a formative grade for the paper after providing feedback on the draft.
Overall, this course has allowed me to better focus my assessment efforts. I look forward to teaching my Bill of Rights unit, and using my newly revised feedback plan for writing units this coming school year. I will continue to learn and revise my assessment methods as I keep reading and trying new techniques.
Brookhart, Susan M. (2008). How to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students. Alexandria, Virginia: ACSD.
Clare, L., Valdes, R., Patthey-Chavez, G. G., California Univ., L. E., & Center for Research on Evaluation, S. C. (2000). Learning To Write in Urban Elementary and Middle Schools: An Investigation of Teachers’ Written Feedback on Student Compositions. (2016).
In Common Core State Standards Initiatve. Retrieved August 15, 2016, from www.commoncore.org
Matsumura, L., Patthey-Chavez, G., Valdés, R., & Garnier, H. (2002). Teacher Feedback, Writing Assignment Quality, and Third-Grade Students’ Revision in Lower-And Higher-Achieving Urban Schools. The Elementary School Journal, 103(1), 3-25. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.spu.edu/stable/1002306
Patthey-Chavez, G. G., Matsumura, L. C., & Valdes, R. (2004). Investigating the Process Approach to Writing Instruction in Urban Middle Schools. Journal Of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 47(6), 462-477.
Peterson, Shelley Stagg (2010). Improving Student Writing: Using Feedback as a Teaching Tool. What Works? Research Into Practice, 29, 1-4.
Wiliam, Dylan (2011-05-20). Embedded Formative Assessment. Solution Tree Press. Kindle Edition.