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

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

State and Support Position

AAC Member Only Content

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.

Can peer feedback really be effective?

AAC Member Only Content

“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. 

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