Performance Tasks – Open up the Learning Possibilities for your Students at Home!

If you’re reading this, you probably already know that AAC has a collection of performance tasks on our website, designed for teachers to use with their students in class. Maybe you’ve even used some of them in the past. Some tasks are available only to AAC members, but there are others, particularly in middle grades social studies and high school mathematics that have been developed through Alberta Education grant funding that are available to the public.

In our ‘new normal’ of distance learning, performance tasks are a great way to provide your students with something a little different to do at home, that still keeps them focused on important learning. You’ll likely want to make some adjustments, but you can make performance tasks work for your students at home!

First of all, if you haven’t already, you might want to start by reading a recent Assessment Talking Point about performance assessment: What’s all the fuss about performance assessment? Many of the tips in that post will be important to remember now.

A good performance task is open-ended, providing entry points for students at all levels. It focuses on big ideas and important learning, but for now at least, step away from the rubric! There is no need to grade these tasks in any way. Instead, look for ways in which your students can share their learning with you, their classmates, and any other audiences you can envision. It’s not about the grade. In fact, it should never have been about the grade, but that’s a topic for another day!

So… here are the new Top Ten Things to Consider when using performance tasks through at-home learning.

1

Find a task you think might be appropriate for your students and doable with materials likely to be available at home. Don’t feel constrained by grade level, particularly in English Language Arts. Many of the AAC ELA tasks can be transported to other grade levels with some minor adjustments for grade-level outcomes. A few tasks are listed at the end of this post that might provide a starting point for your explorations. 

2

Simplify the chosen task as much as is reasonable. A short, simple task will be much more likely to succeed than something complicated and involved. All the tasks and support materials download as word documents, so you can modify them as needed. 

3

Take a look at the rubric. The assessment criteria will give you a good idea of the learning focus of the task. But don’t even think of sending the rubric home to families! Instead, think of how you might turn it into a tool for student self-reflection. For example, you could remove the four levels, provide descriptions that unpack the assessment criteria, and then ask students to identify where their work is strong, and what they might do next to improve it. 

4

Think about which parts of the task are most likely to cause challenges for your students. Many of the tasks come with scaffolding tools that help break down complex thinking skills. In other cases, you might be able to create an organizer or some purposeful questions to help your kids. Anticipate problems, and do your best to get ahead of them. 

5

Set a flexible time frame for the task, and if possible, provide students with some platform through which to share their work and thinking along the way, with you, as well as their peers. Is it possible to provide opportunities for your students to receive feedback, either from you, their peers, or someone at home? The scaffolding tools with many of the tasks have been designed for exactly that purpose.

6

Hmm…we keep mentioning scaffolding tools! You can tell that we value them a lot! Sometimes we call them formative assessment tools. If you haven’t spent much time with scaffolding tools before, this is definitely the time to do so! There are scaffolding templates available to AAC members on the website. If you are not from an AAC member jurisdiction, many of the tasks in middle grades social studies are in the public section and have scaffolding tools that you can adapt for any subject and grade level.

7

Provide a way for parents, guardians, and care-providers to contact you if they have questions. 

8

Encourage students to share their finished projects – audio recordings, photographs, videos, and written work. Celebrate  each student’s contributions, finished or not! Celebrate the parents, guardians, and care-providers for their support and guidance!

9

Normally, we like to see performance tasks that are completely the child’s own work. That’s why we recommend they are done in school. But in this new normal, parents working with children on an engaging learning challenge will yield so much more than a product! Positive parent-child relationships focused on completing a learning challenge will create memories that will last for years. And like we said – it’s not about the grade!

10

We have modified the AAC Terms of Use to allow teachers to post student materials to their electronic classroom portal. This new permission is for individual teachers, not jurisdictions (see pp. 2-3 of the pdf document for details). This is a great time to spread the word within your jurisdiction and take another look at all the great things AAC has available to support effective assessment and learning – especially during this time.

Here are a few performance tasks from the AAC website to get you started. Search by subject and grade at this link. If you are an AAC member, login in first to make your browsing experience easier!

Remember that many of the tasks can easily be adapted to other grade levels, and there are over 250 tasks to explore, from Kindergarten to Grade 12!

  • My Dragon is Lost (Kindergarten ELA): Create a poster for your missing dragon.
  • Lights, Camera, Action! (Grade 1 ELA): Prepare a video preview of a book you’ve read.
  • Animal Sanctuary (Grade 1 Science): Construct a model of a safe place for a rescued animal to live.
  • The Snowman Shop (Grade 2 Math): Make and measure hats, noses, and arms for your shop, and then create snowmen.
  • Fairy Tale Festival (Grade 3 ELA): Create a diorama, comic strip, or illustration representing your favourite part of a fairy tale.
  • EcoCar Challenge (Grade 4 Science): Design, construct, and test a model for a wind-powered vehicle.
  • The Petting Zoo (Grade 5 Math): Create a layout for a petting zoo, with 3 rectangular enclosures.
  • Coming Soon – Class Election (Grade 6 ELA): Gather information about a famous person you would like to nominate as class president.

If you decide to use a performance task with your students, we’d love to hear about the experience. Please feel free to contact AAC anytime. And please, stay safe and connected ‘by a distance’ out there. We are all in this together!

Relationships: That’s What Matters Most Right Now

It’s never been very helpful to argue with kids about homework, and that is especially true right now. With so much uncertainty in the world, it’s no surprise that many kids (and parents, too) are finding it hard to focus on something as ordinary as schoolwork.

We keep hearing that we are all in this together, and it’s true for schoolwork as well. Every student in Alberta has had their year of schooling interrupted. So when the students return to school, teachers will meet students wherever they are at in their learning, and adjust their lessons accordingly.

So while you are working overtime to juggle the demands of working from home and keep everyone in your family healthy and safe, and now you have to worry about how to help your child with their schoolwork, give yourself permission to s-l-o-w- – -d-o-w-n! It’s not a race.

Alberta Education has provided clear guidelines of how much “schoolwork” is expected. https://www.alberta.ca/release.cfm?xID=69874B5C32DE7-C7B9-FAFF-518A0FF91DCFD41D  And it’s not as much as you might have originally thought. Your child’s teachers will be communicating with you about what they want your child to learn and how you might go about helping them.

Aside from that, take this unusual gift of time and look for ways to make learning an enjoyable part of your child’s everyday life. Here are some suggestions for your elementary aged children.

Literacy

  • Make a “word wall” or picture dictionary, where you can collect interesting and intriguing words you read or hear.
  • Use Scrabble letter tiles (or make some of your own using the back of a cereal box) and then build words together. Make new words by changing just one or two letters.
  • Read a book together, no matter what the age of your child, and wonder about what’s going to happen next, or why a character chose to do what they did.
  • Write a story, taking turns with each word, sentence, paragraph or chapter.
  • Draw a picture together. Let your child take the lead, and do your best to copy each step on your own paper. You can take the lead on the next picture.
  • Look for signs of spring, and start a photo collection of what you find.

Numeracy

  • Measure the dimensions of a room, using steps. Use the dimensions to draw a map.
  • Make a half-batch of cookies together, with your child figuring out how much of each ingredient is needed.
  • Let your child make up a problem for you to solve.
  • Give your child a number and have them find as many ways as they can to arrive at that number. For example, “How many different ways can you make 12?” Your child might want to use materials such as bingo chips or buttons to help them represent different ways to show the number.
  • Play games, and let your child keep score. This is a great way to practice mental math.
  • Talk about the difference between games of skill and games of chance. This can help your child deal more constructively with ‘losing’ at a game of chance. For games of skill, help them learn strategies for improving their skill level. How do you keep track of what cards have been played, or the clues that have been given?
  • When you’re reading a book together, see what page you’re on, and figure out how many pages are left. Decide a number of pages you might read each day, and when you expect to be done. 
  • Estimate the number of words on a page and in the book. Do a word count of a page to help refine your estimate. How close were you to your original estimate?
  • Make a list of where we see numeracy skills being used in the real world.

Ideas for Anytime Conversations

Encourage your child to ask questions. Ask them, “What do you wonder about this?” and support your child by asking good questions yourself. Here’s a list of questions that prompt further conversation.

  • What do you need to know next?
  • What do you notice about this?
  • How are these two things alike? How are they different?
  • Why do you think that happened? What if…?
  • Does this make sense? What makes you think you’re right?
  • Why did you choose to do it this way? What are you going to do next?
  • Can you help me understand this part?
  • Is there another way you could do this?
  • Why do you think this didn’t work? What could you try next?
  • Could you make a question of your own that’s like this one?

It’s all about the learning, and your attitude is so important!

Be positive about learning, be interested in what your child is doing, and be excited when a tough problem is solved or a challenge is achieved. Celebrate success. Provide encouragement. Have a conversation. Find time to have fun together every day, and in doing so, you’ll help keep those important relationships intact.

We’ll get through this together, and who knows, the family time we create might just be one thing that we want to remember from this uncertain time.

Time to Make Lemonade!

Time to Make Lemonade!

It’s been said that when life hands you a lemon, make lemonade. Well, it appears that we’ve been gifted a very large shipment of lemons.

I’m not pretending that things are fine, because they’re not. If any have ever doubted our connection to a worldwide community, there is no question at all anymore.

And I’m not suggesting that we ignore the inconvenience and suffering that this pandemic is causing, because it is real.

At the same time, it can be empowering to find places where we can influence the lives of our students and their families for good. Take assessment for example. In the new normal of distance education and distance assessment, how can we make assessment live up to Rick Stiggins’ powerful vision?

        We need assessment that will… 

  • Encourage, not discourage
  • Build confidence, not anxiety
  • Bring hope, not hopelessness
  • Offer success, not frustration
  • Trigger smiles, not tears

If we consider that assessment is essentially the process of gathering evidence of student learning, we have an opportunity right now to revisit this question:

         How much evidence do you really need to tell you that <insert the name of your student here>             understands/can demonstrate <insert the learning outcome here>?

Perhaps not as much as we might have previously thought. Our carefully thought out assessment plans that we submitted in September won’t work in this new reality. What if we could use this time as an opportunity to move away from a focus on grades to a focus on learning?  Perhaps this truly can be a ‘less is more’ moment for student assessment.

Over the next few days, our AAC team will provide a series of helpful suggestions for teachers to consider as they adapt their regular assessment routines for our new reality.  We encourage you to take the opportunity to try some of those new formative assessment techniques that sounded great in the workshop but might not have been tried in the classroom. Now that we all have a new ‘classroom’, how can we adapt these techniques for online learning and assessment?  

Please take good care of yourselves and your loved ones. Slow down, and look for signs of spring. We can all use a bit of light and hope right now.  

To Fret or Refocus: That is the Question!

To Fret or Refocus: That is the Question!

Ruth Sutton, one of AAC’s long-time assessment friends posed the following question at the Fall 2015 AAC Leadership Day.

How do you hang onto your sanity and your confidence and your resilience and your health when things around you seem to be changing, and not always rationally?

Ruth continued:

In that environment of external change – about which we can do not much – you’ve got some choices. You can either fret about things you can’t control, or you can begin to refocus on the things that never go away.

To say that things are challenging right now, both in the world as a whole as well as in the world of education, would be an understatement. And we have a choice. We can either fret or refocus.

Whether we are teachers or leaders, there is power in refocusing our efforts on improving our understanding and our practice in the area of formative assessment. But with all of the possible areas where we could focus our attention, why choose formative assessment?

Rick Stiggins, another long-time assessment friend of AAC, provided some sobering advice. After recapping the research base in the field of formative assessment, Rick warned that these impressive results were not available if one or two teachers did it some of the time. He emphasized that there needs to be a commitment within a school and a district to these principles of formative assessment.

Formative assessment is not an initiative. It’s not a quiz without a grade, or a bin equal to zero in a digital marks program. When done well, formative assessment is the way we do our work so that we ensure all students are learning. Dylan Wiliam calls assessment the “bridge between teaching and learning.” He continues to remind us that effective formative assessment happens “minute-by-minute” and “day-by-day.” It’s something that never goes away.

In the 1998 publication Inside the Black Box, Paul Black and Dylan Wiliam boldly asked four key questions in regard to formative assessment.

  • Is there evidence that improving formative assessment raises standards?
  • Is there evidence of room for improvement?
  • Is there evidence of how to improve formative assessment?
  • Are we serious about raising standards?

What might our responses be to those same questions today?

Regardless of what transpires in the education sector – new curriculum or not; more large-scale testing or not – no one can ever take away the power that comes to students and teachers when they engage in true formative assessment. No one.

We’ve come a long way on this journey, and while sincerely honouring all the amazing things that are happening in classrooms all across our province, we likely can agree that we’re not quite ‘there’ yet!

So while we continue in a time of uncertainty, let’s consider Ruth’s advice. Let’s refocus on things that matter. The principles of classroom formative assessment make a difference for students.

Stay tuned… AAC is with you on this journey!

It’s the best kept secret!

Whenever we do a workshop , we always showcase something from our fabulous AAC website. Participants are often surprised, because they had no idea the wealth of resources that are part of their AAC membership.

We may be a bit biased, but were pretty confident there’s no better place to access resources to support quality classroom assessment practices for Alberta educators than your good old AAC website! Yeah, we’ve been around for over 25 years, but that doesn’t mean that we’re old school! We keep up with the greats in the world and make sure that our resources and workshops are developed with the Alberta context in mind. 

People who know the value of our work often say that AAC is the best kept secret. We’d like to change that! 

We want you to tell everyone about something you found on the AAC website or learned at one of our workshops that you can’t teach without! Like our 2009 publication Building Better Rubrics for example – a teacher once told us that they can’t build a proper rubric without that book! Or an idea from one of our workshops that changed your perspective on teaching, learning and assessment –  “You mean I don’t have to mark everything?”

What is your most valuable AAC resource or your greatest AAC ‘aha’ moment? Let’s start a conversation on Twitter #AACgold. 

Not sure what’s there? We can help with that too! We have a website tour that you can use by yourself, with colleagues, and in a staff meeting. 

Take the AAC_Website_Tour and then take to Twitter! #AACgold

What’s all the fuss about performance assessment?

Performance assessment is not just a passing fad – it is an essential part of a complete and balanced assessment plan.

Let’s be honest – some outcomes simply can’t be measured by a test or quiz. And just because students need to complete some multiple choice tests during their schooling doesn’t mean that we have to use tests as the default assessment format within our classrooms. We have the opportunity – and responsibility – to help prepare our students for the real world. After all, when was the last time you had to do a multiple choice test within your world of work? For me it was decades ago, but that’s a topic for another day!

Performance assessment provides a way for students to demonstrate skills, processes, and competencies, such as critical thinking and creativity, through open-ended tasks that focus on big ideas from the curriculum.

Chances are you are already using performance tasks, but they may exist within your unit plans as projects. With a bit of planning, you can take your projects to the next level. Here are some tips to make it easier for you and your students!

  1. Start small.
    • Start with something that can be completed in one class period or two. Don’t spend too long crafting the perfect task. Instead, put a prototype in action as quickly as possible, and use the lessons you learn on your next attempt.
  2. Collaborate with your colleagues.
    • Work together to create a good question or prompt for the task, then collaborate at the end to examine student work together and reflect on what you’ve learned.
  3. Clarify the learning destination for yourself.
    • What is the learning that really matters here? Will the task you have in mind actually provide the opportunity to demonstrate that learning? Remember that the details of the mode of presentation may not be the most important part of the task. This may be a shift for the students – and their parents! And be sure to check that the rubric is also measuring those same things that really matter.
  4. Clarify the learning destination for your students.
    • How will you build a shared understanding of the learning goals of the activity? Are students clear on the qualities of excellent work?
  5. Consider the needs of all your students.
    • Does the task have entry points for every student in your class? Will students have opportunities to take the learning further if they’re able?
  6. Provide opportunities for practice and feedback.
    • Students need opportunities to practice, receive feedback, and use the feedback to improve, before you assign a mark to their work. Feedback is a checkup, not an autopsy!
  7. Provide choice whenever possible.
    • This might be choice in the question or topic students are responding to, the way in which they demonstrate their learning, or the types of scaffolding available.
  8. Involve students in the assessment process
    • This might include providing time for students to review exemplars, examine their work in relation to the exemplars, engage in peer feedback and self-reflection on work in progress, and set goals for next steps.
  9. Look for ways to include an authentic audience.
    • Students from another class or grade? Presentation to an outside audience? Work displayed inside or outside of school? Digital sharing of the work? A performance task should connect to, or at least mirror, something within the real world.
  10. Don’t panic!
    • The open-ended nature of performance tasks requires a level of independence and risk-taking that might be unfamiliar to your students. Be patient with them, and with yourself!

 

And here’s one last bonus tip – not everything students do needs to be included in their report card mark. That’s right! When an assessment format is new for students (and perhaps also for their teachers), everyone needs time to learn, reflect, and try again.

 

What opportunities exist for including a performance task within your current unit plan? Give it a try! The results may astound you!

Looking for some ideas? Check out https://aac.ab.ca/materials/.

Does test prep have to look like test prep?

The test is coming! The test is coming! Break out the practice questions and bubble sheets!!

We know that some of our students are required to take large-scale assessments, and that the results matter, to a greater or lesser degree, to students, parents, teachers, schools, and districts. Naturally, we want our students to perform to the best of their ability on these assessments.

So that means lots of practice multiple choice tests, right? Maybe it would be best if we model all our assessments on the format of these exams? And wouldn’t it be helpful if students in the grades leading up to the test years also get lots of practice on multiple choice tests?

Not so fast!

Multiple choice tests have their place. They’re straightforward to administer and easy to grade. They can provide some evidence of learning, especially if you’re assessing a student’s knowledge.

But… there’s danger in over-doing multiple choice – and, the information you can get from a multiple choice test is limited.

They require students to recognize correct responses, rather than create ones of their own.

Students can answer questions about a skill, but that’s different than demonstrating the skill themselves.

Multiple choice questions can tell us if a student got the right answer, but not always how.

They tell us if a student got the wrong answer, but not always why.

They aren’t very accessible to our students who have learning challenges, and the comprehension load means that students whose first language is not English are at a disadvantage.

When you look at a Program of Studies for any subject or grade level, it’s easy to find outcomes that simply are not assessable at all through a multiple choice question. That’s why it’s important that we gather evidence in a variety of other ways.

So, how do we prepare our students to do their best on large-scale assessments? If not lots of multiple choice practice tests, then what?

Here are some review strategies that don’t require students to get hopelessly lost in bubble sheets before the big day.

Debates can help students review big ideas and supporting details on a number of topics, which can be invaluable in preparing for written response questions. This activity can also provide important background information for source based multiple choice items.

Have students work in groups to answer a section of multiple choice items. Ask students to identify the correct answer, and to analyze why the other responses are incorrect. By so doing, they can become familiar with how distractors are embedded within the question design.

Use a jigsaw format to help students review large amounts of content, and then prepare to share what they have learned with other groups of students. Of course, teachers will need to oversee the information to ensure its accuracy before it is shared with other groups. This technique can motivate students to do their best work as they realize the benefits of working together and sharing.

Ask students to deconstruct a higher order thinking sample question to determine the background knowledge required in order to answer the question. Students can work together to develop questions (and answers) based on this background knowledge. These questions can be shared with other groups of students or as a whole class review prior to working to solve the answer to the question.

Game show formats can be used to help students become confident with background information they will need in order to answer more in-depth questions on the test. Be sure that the highest level categories require students to synthesize their knowledge and skills in order to answer the type of questions the curriculum requires and that they are likely to see on the test.

All of the above strategies can be used to help students not only review the content and skills they need to know, but they can also help students learn more about how multiple choice tests are designed. These strategies can help students prepare for the test without adding more anxiety.

And the best part of all – none of these review strategies require additional marking! After all, if a student is anxious about an upcoming large-scale test, and the preparation for the test includes multiple days of practice tests that are marked, we are potentially accumulating more and more evidence of what the student doesn’t know, or doesn’t feel confident to do. Our students don’t need any more anxiety in their lives!

We can change all that – and perhaps even have a bit of fun in the meantime. And who doesn’t need a bit of laughter and true engagement at a time like this?

This term, this year – let’s make test prep not even remotely look like test prep!

Formative Assessment? What’s the big deal?

If you have a child beyond Kindergarten, you’ve probably heard about school assessment being divided into two categories: formative and summative. People may have even explained the difference. But in plain language – why does it matter? Isn’t a grade a grade?

Well, as it turns out, assessment and grades are two different things!

Assessment refers to all the ways in which we try to understand where students are in their learning. Most of the time, the assessment happening in a classroom is on-going and often pretty informal. Teachers need to know how things are going, minute-by-minute and day-by-day, so they can make decisions about what to do next to move their students’ learning forward.

  • They might use a specific question somewhere during a lesson to help them understand where each student is in their thinking. 
  • Students might work, independently or with others, on a series of practice questions. 
  • Perhaps teachers look at a rough draft of a writing assignment, so they can provide helpful feedback. 
  • Or the assessment might happen during an “at elbow” conversation with a student as they work on a task. 

In all of these examples, it doesn’t make sense for teachers to assign a grade. Learning is happening here, and grades can actually get in the way!

The assessment at this point is for the benefit of the teacher and the students, and it is totally “formative”. By that, we mean assessment informs students and teachers so they can make good decisions about what to do next.

Teachers also make decisions about when it’s important or helpful to share some of that formative assessment information with parents, so you can support the learning at home. But it’s important to balance sharing that formative assessment information with the goal of providing students time and space within the classroom to take risks and make mistakes. Students really do need time for learning.

Sometimes, assessment provides evidence that will be used to assign a grade. A grade is our best attempt to measure the learning that has taken place, and it’s assigned at the end of a period of learning. This is referred to as “summative assessment”, and it might take the form of a finished piece of writing, a lab report, a unit test, or a gymnastics routine, to name just a few possibilities. These grades are shared with students, parents, and others who have the right to know.

Limiting the number of summative grades that are assigned to students helps us all keep our focus on the learning, not the grade!

Hey Leaders! Do you know how important your work is?

Hey Leaders! Do you know how important your work is?

Seriously! It’s true.

In a review of the research, Leithwood, Louis, Anderson and Wahlstrom (2004) determined that “…leadership not only matters: it is second only to teaching among school-related factors in its impact on student learning…”

With the new TQS and LQS officially in place, AAC has a fabulous new resource to support you as leaders in having important conversations about – what else but classroom assessment, of course!

This new resource has been developed especially for busy school leaders – like you! This resource:

  • is based on 32 AAC videos that show real teachers and real students engaged in effective classroom assessment – in real schools – like yours.
  • contains background information to help you lead conversations about assessment with your staff.
  • provides a suggested framework for creating a school-based assessment team – a bonus to help broaden the conversation about assessment within your school.


Click to Download PDF

Now that the first round of reporting and conferencing has finished, this is a perfect time to reflect on any assessment questions that were raised throughout that process.

Yes, you can be an instructional leader in assessment! And the reason that matters, is so that we can reach all the students under our care – even the ones who seem difficult to reach.

Check it out! This work was funded through a development contract with the Alberta Teachers’ Association to support implementation of the TQS and the LQS. It’s available to everyone!

Want more information? Contact us info@aac.ab.ca and we can help with ideas on how to make the most of this resource.

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?

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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

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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

“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
Next

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

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.

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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