Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Book Study Reflections

It is truly hard for me to believe that we are wrapping up our book study discussions and are in the process of closing out another school year.  Where has the time gone?  I have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to take part in the various discussions and feel that the conversations have been productive.  The biggest takeaway for me has been the realization that we need to continue to engage each other in honest discussions of best educational practices.  I appreciate hearing the varying complications and considerations from each viewpoint and consider the book study to be an effective means of personal, professional and institutional growth.
I believe that our schools' focus needs to continue to move towards standards based instruction and progress monitoring through formative assessments.  Our PLC and PD work should be aligned to this endeavor and provide a platform for each of us, as professional educators, to reflect upon research based pedagogy and work collaboratively in answering DuFour's critical questions:  1)  What is it we want all students to know and be able to do?  2)  How will we know whether or not our students have mastered a concept?  3)  How will we respond when students haven't mastered a concept?  4)  How will we respond when a student has mastered a concept?
In summary, I am encouraged by the amount of effort that each participant put into preparing and participating in the book study.  I am confident that the work was done for the betterment of all involved and that positive momentum continues to build.  Kudos to you all and I look forward to our next steps.  

Monday, December 30, 2013

December 2013:  RPS Book Study Reflection

The biggest takeaway for me has been the necessity for us to be very specific with our grading / reporting measures.  In particular, I think best grading practices not only report averages; but they also include a detailed look into the student's current level of mastery.  There were several chapters that referenced ways in which to improve one's specificity of grading, but I felt Fix # 11:  "Don't rely only on the mean; consider other measures of central tendency and use professional judgment" summed it up best.  The author's viewpoint was that when grades are merely reported through the use of a mean score, outlier scores (high and low) are overemphasized and they can distort the final grade.  He also went on to say that grading should be a determination and not just a mathematical calculation.  In short, the student's scores may report one thing, but you as a professional educator will need look beyond and use your best judgment in determining a final grade.  A quote that comes to mind is, "Whenever I hear statistics being quoted I am reminded of the statistician who drowned while wading across a river with an average depth of three feet." (McMann, 2003, n.p.)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Fix number 1:  Don’t include student behaviors (effort, participation, adherence to rules, etc.) in grades; include only achievement.


I think I could comment on each of the first few fixes we have discussed, but I feel most strongly about the need for us to consider ways to separate grades from behaviors.   To start off, I believe that effort should be reported and that it should be reported as a separate entry.  I also recognize the complexity of this task and can acknowledge that our students’ “effort” and “adherence to rules” should be measured / reported, but I am not so sure it should intentionally be part of or be calculated into the academic grade.  If that is a bit confusing, I want you to consider the following:  Student A turns his / her paper in late and receives a five point reduction.  Let’s also assume that the assignment is worth 10 points and it is done correctly.  Consequently, the resulting score for the student’s math assignment is now graded at 5/10 instead of a 10/10.  While this may be traditional practice and it may be intended to teach accountability and responsibility, it does not give clear feedback to the student on what level of academic mastery that student has been attained on that particular skill.  What is also interesting to me is that I can remember having several of these same discussions with a former colleague/mentor that I worked with some ten plus years ago.  The two of us engaged in many conversations (sometimes heated / heartfelt exchanges) about teaching and the educational profession.  One particular point that we did not agree on was deducting points for late assignment.  I was sure that it was a benefit to tie late points, bonus points, etc. into the grading equation because it would teach students about timeliness and it would be a way to reward those that went above and beyond.  His position was that we should always avoid punishing and rewarding students with grades.  At the time, I thought his philosophy was just too far “out there” and that it was too radical of a practice.  Oh, how I would like to revisit these issues with this particular teacher and I am quite certain he would relish in knowing that I have changed several of my views.