Important Conversations… At Any Time of the Year

Report cards, conferences, checking the online parent portal for the latest entry, looking at your child’s test or project rubric – what matters most to you?

Is it your child’s grades? Where they are in relation to their classmates? Or are you more concerned with their attitude toward learning? Where they’re being successful, and where they struggle?

If you’re like me, the one thing you really want to know is that the teacher knows your child as an individual. They understand your child’s strengths and learning needs. They have a plan to help your child keep moving forward. And they see you as a partner in that learning journey.

Teachers communicate with parents in many different ways. When you’re not sure how to approach one of these important conversations, it’s important to see the big picture of your child’s experience in school.

A report card can never tell a complete story about the learning that happens at school, no matter how many grades it includes or how long a comment the teacher writes. It’s simply a snapshot. Some parents have access to their children’s grades online, but again – marks tell only one part of the story!

So be cautious about putting too much focus marks and grades. If everything your child does in class is marked and ‘counts’ towards the report card, where is the time for learning? School should be a safe space where students can learn, make mistakes, receive feedback, reflect on their learning, make adjustments to work in progress, and apply their learning in new situations. As parents, we can step back a bit, and give our children that space.

Instead of focusing on the grades, imagine that your child could select a piece of work to represent their learning – one they are particularly proud of, that shows the growth they have made over time. What could they tell you about their learning journey? It doesn’t matter whether your child earns top marks or faces learning challenges at school. They will benefit from seeing that you believe the growth and learning that has happened, and is still to come, is more important than the grade on a paper or a report card!

Conferences, whatever their format, offer another, often richer, source of information. When you have an opportunity for a conversation with your child’s teacher, come prepared with some questions in mind. Here are some ideas…

  • What do you see as my child’s greatest strength at school? What makes them feel proud and accomplished?
  • How does my child’s skill in ____ (e.g. writing, reading, mathematics, oral language…) compare to where they were 2 months ago? What can we do at home to help them continue to grow in this area?
  • Here’s something we see at home that concerns us: _________. Do you have any ideas that could help us deal with this together?
  • What concerns you the most about my child’s learning? What plans do you have to support them in this area? How can we help support?

Of course there is a place for grades and end-of-year reporting. But often the journey is more important than the destination. Mid-year report cards and conferences should be a time to celebrate the learning to date, and look ahead to the rest of the year. All children deserve a chance to feel proud, confident, and hopeful!

What Do Parents Really Want To Know?

Report cards or progress reports, and parent/student/teacher conferences can be a stressful time, no matter when they take place.

Some parents seem focused on grades. Some want class averages. Some want to know that their child is at the top of the class. Some want to know that their child isn’t at the bottom of the class.

Some want to know that their child is ‘fitting in’.

But no matter how parents present themselves at these conferences, I think most parents really want to know that their child’s teacher knows their child as an individual learner. Does the teacher know their child’s strengths and learning needs? How is the teacher working to help their child? What can parents do to support learning at home?

In preparing for these important conversations, let’s take a page out of social media. It’s been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. What if a teacher took less than 288 characters to explain the grades! What if a student selected a piece of their work to represent their learning? And while we’re at it, how much more convincing could the story of the learning journey be from the perspective of the student?

Marks only tell part of the story.

School should be a time for learning. If everything a student does in class is marked and ‘counts’ towards the report card, where is the time for learning? School should be a safe place where students can learn, make mistakes, receive feedback, reflect on their learning, make adjustments to work in progress, and apply new insights to the next learning event.

Of course there is a place for summative grades and end-of-year reporting. But often the journey is more important than the destination. As adults we recognize this within our own lives. We need to allow students that same opportunity. Mid-year report cards and conferences should be a time to celebrate the learning to date, and look ahead to the rest of the year.

Think about a student that you worry about. Maybe this is the year that student gains confidence and hope. This video by Rick Stiggins might provide an opportunity to think about how you can use formative assessment to support the vulnerable students in your class this year.

Assessment to support vulnerable students

Watch it yourself, share it with a colleague, and then talk about how what this could mean for your students this year.

We’ve all taught vulnerable students. I only wish that I had known about formative assessment when I started my teaching career. And while none of us can go back, we can all go forward.

Formative assessment is a powerful way to help students learn and to be motivated to learn. And at the end of the day, isn’t that really what we all want for our students?

Whats wrong with assigning group marks?

“There’s just not enough time to cover the curriculum if students don’t work together. And there definitely isn’t time to have students do a project that I can’t use for marks.”

While group work is an important part of the curriculum, it is essential that individual student grades be based on what individual students know and can do. A student’s grade cannot be based on what another student has – or has not done.

There are many ways to accomplish group work without resorting to group grades.

1. Understand the Problem

Over the years, both students and parents have expressed concerns about group work. You can likely recall your own experiences as a student working with group projects.  

Make a list of the reasons why students and parents may be concerned about group work. 

The suggestions on this page can provide possible ways to address the concerns, meet the curricular expectations for collaboration and teamwork, and ensure that assessment remains focused on what individual students know and are able to do.

2. Clarify the Assessment Focus

You don’t need to assess everything every time. With a bit of strategic planning, teachers can organize group projects to provide real clarity on what is – and what is not being assessed.

Assess the Process of Group Work

Group work can be an effective instructional strategy, even if the product created by the group isn’t assessed for marks. 

While students are working on a specific group task, it is possible to assess individual student performance as a group member.

Video: Meaningful Assessment within a Group Context


Meaningful Assessment within a Group Context

Careful planning assists teachers in gathering meaningful assessment information about individual students though group tasks and projects.

Click to View Video Page >>

The document (in the adjacent column) provides a sample of a process and a feedback tool that a teacher might use to focus on the qualities of an effective group member. The helpful tips keep the focus on formative assessment – even when/especially when working with process skills.

This tool is set within a Gr. 4 Social Studies context, but it can be easily adapted for other grades and subjects.

Remember: Only teachers can assign marks! Students can reflect on their own work and provide feedback to their peers, but marking/grading is a professional responsibility.  

Group Work: Tool Sample and Helpful Tips 

Click on image to download pdf. 

Let’s Talk about It

Prior to your next group project, involve students in a class discussion to identify the qualities of an effective group member. 

Design assessment tools to help you record evidence of students demonstrating these qualities and/or to help students reflect on their performance as a group member. 

Assess the Product of Group Work

It is possible to gather evidence of individual student performance when creating a product as part of – or as a result of a group task. The following suggestions come from an AAC Gr. 5 Social Studies task, but the ideas can be applied to other grades and subjects.

Create a division of labour for the content of the project. Organize the project so each student is responsible for a portion of the task. Each student would be assessed individually on the portion of content within their assigned area of focus. In addition to the specific content outcomes, research skills and/or presentation skills may also be assessed.

While the students have become an ‘expert’ on their portion of the topic, they are still responsible for the rest of the content. A graphic organizer can be developed to help students focus on key elements of the presentations of their peers.  A final summative response can be designed to help student synthesize the key points from the group projects. These tend to be focused on big ideas rather than on facts and details. 

A Day at the Museum

Click image to download PDF of student task.

Let’s Talk about It

 As you design an upcoming group project, consider ways to organize the project to allow for a division of labour based on content. 

How can you support students in acquiring the remainder of the content they require so they are not disadvantaged because of the decision to use a group project?

What key question can you develop to help students synthesize the ‘big ideas’ rather than focus on extraneous facts and details? 

3. Group Project - or Not?

Teachers make the decision whether to have students work individually or in a group, except for those rare occasions where the outcome specifies working in a group.

When You Have a Choice

The decision to use an individual or group task is dependent upon factors such as the following.

– availability of space, time and materials to allow for individual completion of the task

– determination of what evidence of learning is required (i.e., to what extent has individual performance as a group member previously been assessed; is this project the best way to gather evidence of individual student performance in regard to the content)

– students’ prior experience in working effectively in groups (could the content learning be compromised because group work is still at an early stage of development)

The Grade 5 Survival science task (in the adjacent column) has been developed as an individual task as well as a group task. It should be noted that the outcomes vary, depending on the option that is selected. The rubrics are also assessing different criteria.

These samples can be adapted to other subjects or grades. 

Survival Reward Challenge (Individual)

Click image to download PDF of student task.

Survival Reward Challenge (Group Task)

Click image to download PDF of student task.

Let’s Talk about It

As you plan an upcoming unit, consider where you might have previously used a group task. Is a group task still the most appropriate way to gather the evidence of learning you require, or would an individual task be a better choice?

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“There’s just not enough time to cover the curriculum if students don’t work together. And there definitely isn’t time to have students do a project that I can’t use for marks.”

While group work is an important part of the curriculum, it is essential that individual student grades be based on what individual students know and can do. A student’s grade cannot be based on what another student has – or has not done.

There are many ways to accomplish group work without resorting to group grades. 

AAC Member Only Content

Public Content

Test Error 500 Page

“There’s just not enough time to cover the curriculum if students don’t work together. And there definitely isn’t time to have students do a project that I can’t use for marks.”

While group work is an important part of the curriculum, it is essential that individual student grades be based on what individual students know and can do. A student’s grade cannot be based on what another student has – or has not done.

There are many ways to accomplish group work without resorting to group grades. 

AAC Member Only Content

Public Content

“There’s just not enough time to cover the curriculum if students don’t work together. And there definitely isn’t time to have students do a project that I can’t use for marks.”

While group work is an important part of the curriculum, it is essential that individual student grades be based on what individual students know and can do. A student’s grade cannot be based on what another student has – or has not done.

There are many ways to accomplish group work without resorting to group grades. 

AAC Member Only Content

Public Content

“There’s just not enough time to cover the curriculum if students don’t work together. And there definitely isn’t time to have students do a project that I can’t use for marks.”

While group work is an important part of the curriculum, it is essential that individual student grades be based on what individual students know and can do. A student’s grade cannot be based on what another student has – or has not done.

There are many ways to accomplish group work without resorting to group grades. 

AAC Member Only Content

Public Content

“There’s just not enough time to cover the curriculum if students don’t work together. And there definitely isn’t time to have students do a project that I can’t use for marks.”

While group work is an important part of the curriculum, it is essential that individual student grades be based on what individual students know and can do. A student’s grade cannot be based on what another student has – or has not done.

There are many ways to accomplish group work without resorting to group grades. 

AAC Member Only Content

Public Content

“There’s just not enough time to cover the curriculum if students don’t work together. And there definitely isn’t time to have students do a project that I can’t use for marks.”

While group work is an important part of the curriculum, it is essential that individual student grades be based on what individual students know and can do. A student’s grade cannot be based on what another student has – or has not done.

There are many ways to accomplish group work without resorting to group grades. 

AAC Member Only Content

Public Content

“There’s just not enough time to cover the curriculum if students don’t work together. And there definitely isn’t time to have students do a project that I can’t use for marks.”

While group work is an important part of the curriculum, it is essential that individual student grades be based on what individual students know and can do. A student’s grade cannot be based on what another student has – or has not done.

There are many ways to accomplish group work without resorting to group grades. 

AAC Member Only Content

Public Content

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AAC Regional 2019 Spring Symposia

Attention K -4 Teachers and Leaders!

Confident, Healthy and Hopeful:

Assessment to Support Our Youngest Learners

Katie White

Assessment decisions that teachers make every day have a profound impact on our students, and this is especially true for our youngest learners.

Katie White will share her experience with integrating learner centered assessment practices within new curricula. Participants will have an opportunity to work in grade level teams to create an assessment framework for a set of learner outcomes from the new K – 4 Alberta Curriculum.

This is a perfect opportunity to consider the kind of classroom assessment practices that will empower our students and fuel hope.

Speaker Bio

Katie White has been a K- 12 classroom teacher, learning coach, and school and system leader. She is currently Coordinator of Learning for the North East School Division in Saskatchewan. Through her work at the system level, she was an integral part of her school division’s multiyear journey through renewed curricula and outcome-based assessment and reporting. This work led her to develop an integrated understanding of the relationships among curriculum, assessment, instruction and learning. Her work with educators supports both a holistic understanding of learners and how they interact with our school systems, alongside an in-depth refinement of practices that support teaching and learning in classrooms.

Katie also works as an educational consultant and is the author of two resources published under the Solution Tree label: Softening the Edges: Assessment Practices That Honor K-12 Teachers and Learners and Unlocked: Assessment as the Key to Everyday Creativity in the Classroom.

Date

  • Tuesday, April 16, 2019 in Calgary

Agenda

      8:00 am Continental Breakfast and Registration
      9:00 am Keynote: Katie White
      12:00 pm Lunch (provided)
      1:00 pm Keynote: Katie White
      3:00 pm Conclusion

AAC Member ‘Early Bird’ Fee: $225.00 (valid until February 28, 2019)
AAC Member Fee: $250.00
Non-Member Fee: $375.00

 This link will take you to the Eply registration form.

 Register Now!

Communicating and Reporting

Many jurisdictions have revamped their reporting systems over the past several years. Whether a jurisdiction is creating a new reporting system or reviewing an existing system, many variables and multiple audiences need to be considered. This project was developed in collaboration with AAC member jurisdictions.

This online resource is organized around the following topics. Click the links below to access the video and print resources within each section.

PLEASE NOTE: We are still moving content over to our new site. The videos will be available soon. Thanks for your patience.

Click here to access a pdf document of this resource.

This resource contains over 50 videos which are part of the AAC member collection. Member login is required to access the videos.

Acknowledgements

The Alberta Assessment Consortium (AAC) would like to acknowledge the contribution of the following individuals for sharing information about communicating and reporting student learning in their school/jurisdiction.
 Jill Alexander Teacher, Foothills School Division
 Lois Gluck  Supervisor Curricular Services, St. Albert Public
 Linda Inglis  Former Principal, G.H. Luck School
 Janice Ottewell  Teacher, Foothills School Division
 Dorothy Paszkowski  Teacher, Foothills School Division
 Bryan Szumlas  Director Instructional Services, Calgary Catholic
 Colin Woelfle  Consultant, Edmonton Public Schools
AAC would also like to acknowledge the contribution Ken O’Connor has made in heightening awareness of the important principles of communicating about student learning.

Assessment and a New Alberta Curriculum

Curriculum and assessment are inseparable. While it’s true that assessment must be an accurate reflection of the curriculum, it’s also true that curriculum must be written in such a manner as to support effective assessment practice. AAC invites you to consider 3 key things when looking at the new curriculum ‘through the lens of assessment’. Assessment and a New Alberta Curriculum (Download PDF)

Effective Classroom Assessment Cohort Series

Every Alberta teacher and leader needs this course!

Two-year program for teachers and leaders • Consistent with the new LQS and TQS
• Collaboration with like-minded professionals in your region
• In-person seminars with follow-up to your classroom/school context
• Supports assessment with existing and new curriculum

Regional Cohort Registration for 2018-2019

For more information and seminar dates click here to download pdf.

Registration Now Open!

Excellent PD! Your knowledge of balanced assessment will definitely grow. You’ll be given time to reflect and time to share. Be prepared to have your thinking challenged - in a good way!
— Mary Lynn
After teaching for 25+ years, it feels good to learn more and be motivated (enthusiastic) in my teaching. Some of the best PD I have done in assessment.
— Cathy
All our discussions were clearly focused and expertly guided with ample time for reflection and sharing. We had to think deeply which was excellent. Highly recommended.
— Joanne
Previous
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Leaders Year 1

  • 2-day cohort experience
  • Prepares participants to apply principles of assessment leadership within the school

Leaders Year 2

  • 2-day cohort experience
  • Prepares participants to expand the impact of their instructional leadership

Teachers Year 1

  • 3-day cohort experience
  • Prepares participants to apply principles of assessment within their classroom context

Teachers Year 2

  • 3-day cohort experience
  • Prepares participants to lead collaborative conversations with peers

 

PLEASE NOTE: The exact location within each region will be determined based on registration. If you would like to host the seminars in your jurisdiction, please contact Jennifer at info@aac.ab.ca or call the AAC office at 780-761-0530

More testimonials from participants

This project gave me the time, space and mentorship to critically assess my own assessment practices and pedagogy. I feel both validated and motivated to continue my own learning journey. — Chelsie

The facilitator established an environment where we felt comfortable sharing even the most controversial ideas. There was never any judgment. — Geoff

The facilitator did a great job breaking open the assessment process in manageable chunks. I am extremely excited to share my learning with others. — David

Absolutely awesome! Loved the professional conversation. Helped facilitate conversations at our school. — Kirsten

Amazing conversation around assessment and teaching. Opportunity to work with colleagues from varied backgrounds and teaching experiences. Inspires thinking and questioning of my own practice. — Shauna

This is a great opportunity to look closer at assessment practice. Whether you are brand new or a veteran, it is always great to have a refresher. — Jason

These sessions were great. It was very interesting to dig into what the outcomes are asking. The discussions around formative assessment were very thought provoking. Wish all teachers could do these sessions. — Sharon

This experience really made me think of my own assessment practices and re-evaluate what I thought I was doing well. This session would be great for all teachers to attend. — Shannon

Great professional discussions and dialogue around assessment that I will carry into my practice. — Jenny

The conversations during the cohort were invaluable. My thinking was always pushed and I enjoyed hearing the many different opinions and viewpoints from colleagues. — Tausha

Good practical work embedded into each session that you can use immediately and adapt to your job assignment. — Holly

Safe place to refine a message about assessment practices in order to help others move along the continuum. — Shelley

Rich conversations that helped the individual participants, as well as the group as a whole, to reflect on the purpose and impact of assessment on students. Time to focus on making conscious assessment decisions. — Jill

It is intense and very self-reflective. Gives you the knowledge to create more accurate assessments, which actually makes teaching/assessing/planning easier. — Dallas

Being part of the cohort provided opportunities for thought-provoking conversation and professional reflection. I also know where to access assessment resources. This was an extremely valuable and practical PD opportunity. — Lauren

It’s an opportunity to shift paradigms and challenge the status quo. It makes you think and it facilitates teacher/leader growth and change. — David

Excellent PD! Your knowledge of balanced assessment will definitely grow. You’ll be given time to reflect and time to share. Be prepared to have your thinking challenged – in a good way! — Mary Lynn

I loved the opportunity to have time to share ideas, challenge each other, and just talk about assessment. All our discussions were clearly focused and expertly guided with ample time for reflection and sharing. We had to think deeply which was excellent. Highly recommended. — Joanne

I am looking at instruction and assessment in different ways. After teaching for 25+ years, it feels good to learn more and be motivated (enthusiastic) in my teaching. Some of the best PD I have done in assessment. — Cathy

Analyze Cause and Effect

Analyzing for cause and effect requires students to go beyond simply summarizing information. Background information is an essential first step, but students must also make connections between and among events, actions or items of information.

Learner outcomes may not always explicitly use the term “cause and effect.” The following language may be used within outcomes to signal the skill of analyzing cause and effect.

Current Curriculum

explain impact of _____ on ______

describe influence of _____ on ______

modify/adapt ____ for the purpose of ______

analyze changes as a result of ______

determine effect of ____ on _______

 

New Curriculum

The following list is a sampling of outcomes from the new curriculum that require students to engage in analysis.

Social Studies 2
Students describe how fairness can affect interactions with one another.

English Language Arts 4  
Students explain how language has the power to influence themselves and one another.

Science 4  
Students explore and analyze how plants and animals have adapted to environmental change over time.

Art 4  
Students analyze and apply artistic choice for the expression and communication of ideas and experiences. 

Math 2  
Students design and test a simple process that achieves a desired outcome.

Wellness 4  
Students describe the cause-and-effect relationship between engagement in physical activity and motivation.

The Competencies of Critical Thinking, Problem Solving and Communication are integral to the skill of analyzing cause and effect. Depending on the specific curricular context, other competencies may also be developed.

Teaching the Skill of Analyzing Cause and Effect 'through the Lens of Assessment'

The skill of analyzing cause and effect recurs throughout the grades and subject areas. As such, it is worth spending time to help students develop this skill.  

We can’t always assume that students understand what ‘analyzing cause and effect’ means. Support and feedback are integral to helping students develop this skill over time. Eventually, students will be able to internalize this skill so it becomes part of their repertoire of critical thinking skills.  

While the following instructional strategies have been described within the context of a Grade 5 English Language Arts outcome, they can be easily adapted to other grade and subject areas.

Keep the Task on Track

When designing instruction and assessment, it is important to be clear about what the outcome is asking. Many engaging ideas for student tasks are available on the web; however, teachers need to ensure that the tasks involve students in the skills the outcomes require, and not just the topic of study. 

Let’s Talk about It

Revisit the outcomes in your grade or subject for an upcoming unit. Where do you find examples of analyzing cause and effect? How well does the student task or product you have planned allow the students to demonstrate their skill with analyzing cause and effect? Make a note of things that you think might require adjustment.

Plan Effective Questions and Support with Graphic Organizers

Take time to plan clarifying questions to help guide students to be successful in meeting the learning goal.
 
Graphic organizers can help students focus on the background information that is required in order for them to engage in the analysis. 

Let’s Talk about It

What clarifying questions could you pose to help students focus their responses on analysis rather than simply retelling information? 
How might you modify or develop a graphic organizer to assist students with the skill of analyzing cause and effect?

Rethink the Student Product

The focus now shifts from a specific product to the process of thinking. 
 

Let’s Talk about It

How might you modify or develop a task that would allow students to demonstrate their ability with the skill of analyzing cause and effect?

Assessing the Skill of Analyzing Cause and Effect

When a careful examination of the outcomes has guided instructional planning, the links between instruction and formative assessment can be seamless. It follows that assessment tools, both formative and summative, also must be focused on the desired end goal. 

The following examples of assessing the skill of analyzing cause and effect can be easily adapted to other grades and subjects.

Focus First on Feedback

While students are learning a skill, it is essential that they have feedback on their work while there is still time for them to make improvements. These two sample feedback tools provide a structure for students to engage in conversation and provide feedback to their peers about the skill of analyzing cause and effect.

These tools can be adapted for other grades or subjects. 
 

Grade 7: Social Studies
Peer Coaching Tool: Analyze Histrical Context 
Plains of Abraham Revisited 

Click on image to download PDF. 

Grade 9: Social Studies
Peer Coaching Tool: Analyze Historical Context
Papaschase Land Claim

Click on image to download PDF. 

Let’s Talk about It

Work with grade level colleagues to identify what the skill of cause and effect ‘looks like’ within your grade/subject area. What questions or prompts could you include in a formative feedback tool for an upcoming task to support students in analyzing cause and effect? 

Build a Better Rubric

Rubrics are not just a scoring tool for teachers. A well designed rubric can help students understand what the learning destination ‘looks like’ and guide students to improve their work in progress. 
 
The sample rubric excerpt for analyzing cause and effect is based on  Grade 4 Science outcomes. However, the discussion can be useful for teachers working at all grades and subjects.

Build a Better Rubric for Analyzing Cause and Effect

Click on image to download PDF. 

Let’s Talk about It

Work with a rubric you have used previously, or one that you find through an online search. Adapt the rubric as necessary for an upcoming assignment where students are analyzing cause and effect. How might exemplars work alongside the rubric to help students understand how to improve their work in progress?  

Analyzing Cause and Effect in Action

Are you currently teaching the skill of analyzing cause and effect? Contact us if you are interested in submitting exemplars of your students working with this skill. An AAC facilitator will guide you though the process.

State and Support Position

Stating and supporting a position requires students to take a position on a topic or issue, and then to support that position based on knowledge gained through study and/or research. The issue or topic should be one of substance where diverse perspectives have merit.

Learner outcomes may not always explicitly use the term “state and support position.” The following language may be used within outcomes to signal this skill.

develop and support a position
draw and support conclusions
critically evaluate diverse perspectives
form and support an opinion
to what extent…
state a prediction and hypothesis based on background information
critique
select and defend
 

The Competencies of Critical Thinking, Problem Solving and Communication are integral to the skill of stating and supporting a position. Depending on the specific curricular context, other competencies may also be developed.

 

Teaching Students to State and Support a Position 'through the Lens of Assessment'

Stating and supporting a position is a complex skill in which the evidence of learning is more about the quality of the support that students provide for their position than on the specific product students use to communicate their message. 

Teaching this skill ‘through the lens of assessment’ helps students focus on the underlying thinking skills that prepare them to successfully demonstrate this skill. 

Be Curious

Why do some students seem to state and support a position with relative ease, while other students struggle? 

Some students only summarize the topic. Others might list the pros and cons for two different options – essentially comparing and contrasting the options. In both of these cases, students are failing to state a position. 

Perhaps they are afraid to be wrong, and attempt to ‘cover their bases’ with detailed information. What support do these students need to take risks with their learning?

Other students might provide weak support for their argument, and need assistance to strengthen their position. They may need support with accessing additional information, organizing information or understanding perspectives.

Being curious about why students struggle, and seeking to ‘fill in the gaps’ while there is still time to improve, helps to put success within reach for all students. 

Be curious. Listen to what students are saying (or what they’re not saying) to help determine what support they might need for this complex skill.

Let’s Talk about It

Think about a student who seems to struggle with stating and supporting a position. What specific instructional support might this student need? Consider where this additional support might be inserted into the instructional sequence.

Model the Skill

Provide students with a template that outlines the required components for stating and supporting a position. The following template is based on a current Alberta Grade 6 Social Studies outcome.

Athenian democracy (was/was not) fair and equitable because                 .

The following response could be generated through a class discussion. 

Athenian democracy was not fair and equitable because you must be a citizen to participate. There were strict rules about who could be citizen, so not very many people were able to participate in the democratic process.

To help the students understand that both positions are plausible, a similar response could also be generated for the opposite point of view. 

Emphasize, however, that the goal is not to support both positions, but to select a position and to provide convincing support for the selected position.

Brainstorm with students a list of qualities for strong supporting evidence. The sample feedback tool (in the adjacent column) provides an example of these qualities with the social studies context described above. The tool can be modified for other subjects and grade levels. 

Grade 6 Social Studies: 
Peer Coaching Tool: Develop and Support Position 
Democracy or Not… You Be The Judge 

Click on image to download PDF.

Let’s Talk about It

Where in an upcoming assignment could you model the skill of stating and supporting an opinion? What are the qualities of strong supporting evidence within your grade/subject area? Plan to work with students to help them understand and demonstrate these qualities in their work. 

Assessing the Skill of Stating and Supporting a Position

Effective instruction and formative assessment experiences help prepare students to be successful with summative assessment.

They’ll Know It When They See It

Exemplars can be a powerful way to help students internalize the quality of work required. Exemplars can be gathered from student work from prior years and/or samples of current student work in progress. 

Working with peers provides an additional safety net while students are learning about the skill.

Let’s Talk about It

What support will students need to make the transfer from recognizing various levels of quality in a collection of exemplars to accurately reflecting on their work in progress and making the necessary adjustments to improve their work? 

Think Beyond the Essay

It’s true that some provincial exams require a written response, and it’s important to help students be as successful as they can with that format. However, time spent helping students internalize the skill of stating and supporting a position may be more beneficial than focusing on details of a formal written response, especially for students who struggle with written expression. 

The quality of students’ thinking can be evident, even with less than perfect written expression. Provincial rubrics reflect this, emphasizing the quality of the ideas and organization over the mechanics of communication. 

That’s not to say the we should abandon efforts to support students to improve written expression. However, a balanced approach to classroom assessment can keep the focus on developing the skill rather than on the exam. 

Learner outcomes specify what the student need to demonstrate. Unless the outcome specifically requires students to respond in writing, it may be appropriate for students to respond in a different format.

Let’s Talk about It

Think of a student who struggles with written expression. How might the option for an alternate summative assessment format support this student to focus on the skill of stating and supporting a position?  

Build a Better Rubric

It’s important that the rubric helps students understand the learning destination and what quality work looks like.

Compare the non-example rubric with the preferred rubric to see how a rubric can be designed to help students understand and work towards the big idea of stating and supporting a position.

 

Build a Better Rubric for Stating and Supporting a Position 

Click on the image to download PDF. 

Let’s Talk about It

Examine a rubric from a past or upcoming assignment where students are required to state and support a position. Consider what modifications might be required to ensure the rubric supports students as they work to demonstrate the required skill. 

State and Support a Position in Action

Are you currently teaching the skill of stating and supporting a position? Contact us if you are interested in submitting
exemplars of your students working with this skill. An AAC facilitator will guide you though the process.

Summarize

The big idea of summarizing requires students to capture the essence of a text, experience or event and relate it in a condensed format. Summarizing is a skill that students require in any subject area where they work with information.

Learner outcomes may not always explicitly use the term “summarize.” The following language may be used within outcomes to signal the skill of summarizing.
retell
describe
explain
paraphrase
identify beginning, middle and end
record or represent key facts and ideas in own words
 

The Competencies of Critical Thinking, Managing Information and Communication are integral to the skill of summarizing. Depending on the specific curricular context, other competencies may also be developed.

Teaching the Skill of Summarizing 'through the Lens of Assessment'

It can be challenging to condense a large amount of text into a summary. An effective summary needs to follow the Goldilocks principle – not too detailed, not too vague, but just right. 

Many students will likely need help in knowing how to determine what the main ideas are and how to build in effective transitions between their key points. Thinking about the end goal while planning instructional activities can assist in reaching those students who need some extra support to be successful.

Clarify the Learning Destination

Provide a sample of two different summaries based on a familiar story. One summary should be too succinct, missing the big ideas and leaving the audience wondering what the story was about. Another summary should be far too long and include too much extraneous detail.

Ask students to compare the two summaries. Work with students to generate a list of qualities of an effective summary.

This activity could be adapted to the content areas where students may need to describe a procedure or provide the historical context of an event.

Let’s Talk about It 

How would you describe the qualities of an effective summary within the subject and grade you are teaching? Having these ideas in mind will assist you in leading a conversation with your students.

Be sure that the list you generate with your students is in keeping with what the outcome is asking, and doesn’t include extraneous factors.

Provide a Graphic Organizer

The specific design of a graphic organizer will depend on several factors, including the grade, subject area and students’ experience with summarizing.

Not all students will require a graphic organizer. On the other hand, providing a graphic organizer as an instructional strategy should not automatically lead to the resulting summative product being assessed as of lesser quality than work produced without an organizer. 

The graphic organizer samples show how an organizer can be modified to focus on the specific need a student has.

Graphic Organizer Samples for Summarizing

Click on image to download PDF.

Let’s Talk about It 

Think of a student who struggles with summarizing. Where could a graphic organizer be used to support this student with an upcoming assignment?

Model a Feedback Process

Select a sample of a student work from a previous year, a sample willingly provided by a current student, or a sample of your own writing to replicate a summary that is at a ‘not yet’ level of quality.

Even when feedback is being provided to one student, other students may be able to use that feedback to recognize gaps in their own work and independently make adjustments.

Let’s Talk about It 

Where could you model a feedback process for a summary in an upcoming lesson?

Assessing the Skill of Summarizing

Assessment includes both formative and summative experiences. Formative assessment is closely linked with instruction. Formative assessment helps prepare students to be successful with summative assessment. 

Look through a New Lens

It’s often difficult to see the gaps in our own writing because we know what we intended to include. A peer can provide helpful feedback, even if they are not familiar with the context.

The perspective of a peer can be invaluable in helping students discover gaps in a summary. 

Let’s Talk about It 

Where could peer feedback be used in an upcoming assignment to help students improve the quality of their summaries?

Formative Feedback Tools

The following feedback tools have been developed as part of AAC performance assessment tasks, and can be easily adapted to any grade or subject.

Rather than asking students to determine a level of performance, the first  feedback tool describes the goal of an effective summary.  It is designed to help students work with peers to identify any gaps in the student’s work.

The second feedback tool provides a place for a reviewer (classmate, older student, parent, teacher) to ask questions about the content the student has provided in a storyboard for a comic strip. Questions from the reviewer can help the student recognize gaps in their work at a time when the student can use the feedback to improve their work.

Grade 6 Social Studies
Peer Coaching Tool: Describe Structure and Function:
Describe Roles and Responsibilities

Click on image to download PDF.

Storyboard Planner and Feedback Tool

Click on image to download PDF.

Let’s Talk about It 

Where could you insert time for feedback as you plan for an upcoming student assignment? Be sure to provide time for students to act on the feedback they have received.

Offer Choice – Even in Summative Assessment!

Unless the learner outcome specifically requires students to provide a summary in writing, teachers should be prepared to find other ways for students to demonstrate their understanding. 

 

Let’s Talk about It 

Think about a student who struggles to summarize information in writing. How might a choice of format assist this student to demonstrate their understanding? How can teachers ensure that performance standards remain consistent when differentiating the format?

Build a Better Rubric

It’s important that students understand that an effective summary is not about how long the summary is but rather about how well the summary has captured the key ideas. 

Compare the non-example rubric with the preferred rubric to see how a rubric can be designed to assess a summary.

 

Build a Better Rubric for Summarizing

Click on image to download PDF.

Let’s Talk about It 

How might exemplars help teachers, students and parents understand the levels of quality described in the rubric?

Summarizing in Action

Are you currently teaching the skill of summarizing? Contact us if you are interested in submitting exemplars of your students working with this skill. An AAC facilitator will guide you though the process.

New AAC Publication Now Available!

Assessment Conversations: Engaging with Colleagues to Support Student Learning

This new AAC resource has been ‘made for Alberta’. It is a practical resource that every system leader, school leader and teacher can turn to for background information, answers to perplexing assessment questions, and concrete ideas for moving assessment practice forward in classrooms, schools and jurisdictions. 

This publication has been written with the new professional practice standards in mind. Consider this newest AAC resource to be an integral part of planning for implementation of the new standards – for teachers, school leaders and system leaders. 

Available Now from the AAC Store!

Save the GST until May 31.

Can peer feedback really be effective?

“The students either give superficial feedback, or it can end up causing all sorts of hurt feelings. I’m not sure it’s worth the time and effort.”

With a bit of planning and preparation, peer feedback can become an effective strategy to support student learning. Here are some  things to consider when working to implement effective peer feedback in the classroom.

1. Feedback about the Right Things

Students need to know the learning destination to help them stay focused.

It’s All about the Outcomes

If feedback is to improve learning, it must be focused on helping students consider the quality of their work in relation to the outcomes.

Let’s Talk about It

What are some of the ‘big ideas’ you want students to learn? How do the students know what those ‘big ideas’ are?

Scaffolding is Essential

As with any new skill, students will need support to help them become effective at giving and receiving peer feedback.

Let’s Talk about It

Check out an AAC Performance Assessment Task. Notice how the Formative Feedback Tools provide questions and prompts to help students focus on the ‘big ideas’ from the Student Task.

Ideas, Not Carbon Copies

Instead of encouraging students to copy another student’s work, effective peer feedback opens up possibilities to students.

Let’s Talk about It

Think about an upcoming student task or project. How could the task be structured so it was open-ended enough to be suitable for a peer feedback experience?

2. Create a Safe Classroom Environment

Assessment can evoke an emotional response. A safe classroom environment is essential if peer feedback is to have its intended impact.

Building a Classroom Community

A safe classroom environment requires more than just physical safety.

Let’s Talk about It

How can we help students develop trust so they will be willing to engage in open conversations about their learning?

Try the Sandwich Technique

Feedback can include both areas of strength and areas for growth. The two categories might not be equal in focus, but feedback can always be respectful.

Let’s Talk about It

How can we help students learn the skill of providing feedback that is both honest and respectful?

A Word about FOIP

What do teachers need to consider when students have access to the work of other students?

Click image to download PDF.

Let’s Talk about It

When planning for peer feedback, what steps will you need to take in order to respect students’ privacy?

3. Timing is Everything

The best feedback takes place while there is still time to use the feedback to improve the work.

You’ve Got Feedback: Now What?

Students are encouraged to reflect critically about the feedback they receive, and make decisions as to their next steps.

Let’s Talk about It

What support will students need in order to think critically about the feedback they receive?

Feedback at the Right Time

The right feedback at the right time is a winning combination for students.

Let’s Talk about It

Consider how you might include a peer feedback experience in an upcoming lesson or series of lessons. Be sure to allow time for students to act on the feedback they receive. 

Public Assurance Discussion Paper

A New Look at Public Assurance: Imagining the Possibilities for Alberta Students

Alberta has much to gain by ensuring that our young learners acquire the requisite knowledge, skills and attitudes to ensure a solid foundation for future learning. Yet how can we know that students are ‘ready’ for grade four? Is it possible to design alternative assessments that can both support learning and at the same time, assure the public that Alberta students are receiving a high quality, world class education? It is the view of the Alberta Assessment Consortium (AAC) that it is not only possible but highly desirable. Assessment authors and researchers from around the world agree.

A review of international research citing the limitations of large scale accountability systems, followed by a proposed new model of public assurance, tailored for the Alberta context.

New AAC Publication Available Soon!

Assessment Conversations: Engaging with Colleagues to Support Student Learning

 

Designed for formal school and system leaders, as well as for those performing a variety of teacher leadership roles, this resource supports sound classroom assessment practices within the Alberta context.

Background information, AAC resource listings, and discussion questions are included to guide conversations with colleagues.

This resource provides school and system leaders with practical support for meeting professional standards relative to instructional leadership in assessment.

 

Available March 2017 - just in time for professional learning planning for next year!

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