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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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.

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.

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.

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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