Assessment/Grading PD Session

http://prezi.com/kvae4tnhhlf7/grading/?auth_key=26d56335c458da1ee218efbfe060608c99fe591a

The above prezi was created to lead our staff through a discussion-based PD session about assessment and, more specifically, grading.  In order to put staff members into groups of 4, we had them line up by birthdate…without speaking.  The staff had fun getting aligned (even though some were out of order).  The first 4 people were a group, then the next 4, and so on.

After a brief discussion about the session and how it fits into the district goals, the objectives for the session were presented:

  • to examine current assessment practices
  • to engage in a collaborative discussion
  • to take the first step in developing a school wide assessment policy

The first task was for groups to discuss the question, “What is the purpose of a grade?”  Many of the groups recognized that a grade is a means of reporting where a student is at in terms of a set of learning outcomes.  We then talked about a grade in terms of some of the images in the prezi.

The second learning activity was to calculate a student mark given raw scores and weightings.  This was a great activity and the discussions at the tables were rich, indeed.  The tricky part of this activity is that the student (see prezi) has a mark of zero for a major exam.  The final calculations of grades ranged from 57% to 82% as a mark for this student.  This lead us into a large group discussion about the inclusion of zero in a student mark.  Many members of staff were passionate in their debates…I loved it!

The last activity was 3 questions which groups wrote answers for.  I had originally intended staff to add the answers to a google doc but we were running out of time so I had them answer the questions on the back of the sheet which they used to calculate the student’s mark (above).

Overall, it was a great session in which the professional conversation was stimulating and thought provoking.  It was an awesome introduction for me…the new AP.

Call for a new Mathematics curriculum

As a mathematics teacher, I get mixed feelings when I read articles like this one calling for a new Mathematics curriculum.  In my 22 years in education, the Math curriculum in the province of Alberta has changed at least 3 or 4 times.  Some of these changes have been good…some, not so good.  Don’t get me wrong, I totally agree that much of what we teach kids in Math is totally irrelevant to the careers that they will find themselves in.  I agree that Math education for the 21st century should involve the disciplines of which the article speaks.  I get excited about the potential to change the Math curriculum to be more relevant for careers that students will be working in.

At the same time, I get a little frustrated.  My experience has shown that we can change our Math curriculum all we want but none of these changes will be effective unless the post-secondary institutions get on board with us.  We are currently developing a new series of courses at the grade 11 and 12 level and we have absolutely no idea if the post-secondary institutions will accept them.  Many years back, we changed our Math program to Pure and Applied Math but the Applied Math 30 course became a dead end because post-secondary institutions were not willing to accept it.  Back in the day, it was touted as the course that kids needed to go to technical school but our local tech school would not even accept it for some programs.  This made kids go back and upgrade to Pure Math.

Bottom line: If we are going to make changes, all of the stakeholders need to be heard from.

Please share your comments.

Student Discipline

I wrote a quick post a little while back about a sign that I saw while I was on holidays this past summer.  Since I posted that, I have done a great amount of reflecting with respect to discipline procedures and my personal practice of disciplining students.  To me, the sign that I took a photo of nails down some ground rules for people to remember when dealing with others.  I have been contacted by many teachers who loved the sign and wanted to incorporate it into their classroom rules.

As an employee of Edmonton Catholic Schools, I am committed to the mission, vision, and core values of ECSD.  I will use the core values to guide my reflection:

Dignity and Respect – It is important to remember that when kids get in trouble at school that I must do what I can to maintain their dignity.  I must remember that it is the behaviour that I am punishing, not the student.  I try to treat students as if they were my own children and I realize that getting in trouble and breaking the rules is all part of learning.  Consequences which are given must not be degrading to the student.  An easy rule of thumb is, “If this was my own child, how would I feel about the consequence?”

I will not belittle a child or speak down to him/her.  I find that I get better results when I speak kindly to students and parents.  I read a book a few years ago called Verbal Judo that I must get a copy of…it gives many tips for keeping control of interactions with others.  If the conversation gets heated (as it often does) it is probably better to postpone the meeting until all participants have “cooled off”.  My former principal always used to say, “No one is going to die if we make the decision tomorrow”.  I had a situation once where I suspended a student until his father could speak in a civil manner.  It is important not to raise your voice when dealing with discipline.  The only thing that you are showing when you raise your voice is that you have lost control.

Honesty – Tell it like it is.  Students, teachers and especially parents want to hear the truth.  It is important to be diplomatic…there is always a nice way to say things.  An important technique for me is to think before I speak…this has definitely been a challenge throughout my career.  Tell parents the whole story, from beginning to end and allow them to ask questions.

If you make a mistake…be honest about it.  We are all entitled to make mistakes from time to time.  Don’t make too many mistakes or you will lose some major credibility.  I dealt with a situation at my last school in which I had accused the wrong student of an offense.  I even went as far as to call the parent to the school.  By the time the parent arrived, I had discovered my error and I had to admit that I had wrongly accused the student.  Thankfully, the parent was relieved and saw the humour in the situation.  As I type this I am thinking back to when I used to officiate basketball.  You mess up a call every now and then but if you mess up more than one call in a game, the crowd will start to heckle you.

Loyalty – I need to be loyal to community in which I work.  This include the students, staff, and families which make up this school community.  I must also be loyal to the mission and vision of the school district, as well as to the code of conduct of the Alberta Teachers Association (of which I am a member…yes, even as an administrator).  I find that if I am ever having a dilemna, I ask myself the question, “What is best for the student?”  Our school (and our district) have the best interests of students at the heart of our mission.

Fairness – Consequences have to be fair and must be warranted by the behaviour.  In other words, the punishment must fit the crime.  For example, if a student breaks a window, the student must pay for the window.  If he (his family) cannot afford to pay for the damage, I think that community service would be an appropriate consequence.  I had a student do some painting in lieu of paying for a broken window.  I used $10 per hour as the pay rate.  The student broke a $150 window so he painted for 15 hours.

Personal & Communal Growth – To me, this is the most important part.  This is when the learning happens!  What has the student learned as a result of a consequence?  I am thinking back to an incident last year in which a student was using uncomplimentary language directed at a teacher during a student/teacher hockey game.  One of the teachers who was on the ice at the time approached me to say, “We need to ban that kid from playing hockey for the rest of the year”.  To this my response (after thinking for a moment was, “I appreciate that what [this student] did was wrong, but if we ban him, how does he show that he has learned something?”  The consequence, in this case, was a three day out of school suspension and a one month suspension from playing hockey (hockey games were once per week).  The student was able to show that he had learned something.

A very important note….once a student serves a consequence for a certain behaviour, I believe that we should forgive and move forward!  This is part of the Communal Growth piece.  As a school community, we learn and grow as a result of everything that we do.  Relationships are the key to dealing with discipline efficiently and effectively.

If you have anything to add, please comment.

The Rules

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This was a sign that I saw outside of one of the buildings at the Coeur d’Alene city beach park, this summer. I could not wait to get home and share it on my blog because of its pertinence to the work we do in our schools. If you think about it, these are really the only rules that are needed. they apply to both adults and kids…

Please share your comments…

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