Engaging Students through Effective Questions

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A teacher at St. Elizabeth Seton School in Calgary uses 'paper tweets' to help her students reflect on their learning.

Key Points

  • Students make connections to and deepen their understanding of prior learning as they engage in self-reflection.
  • Meaningful questions guide self-reflection.
  • Both teachers and students benefit from this process.

Discussion Question

  • How might we collaborate to design high quality questions that would support this type of student reflection and engagement?

Just-in-Time Feedback

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Teachers at Monsignor Fee Otterson School highlight the benefits of providing students with just-in-time oral feedback.

Key Points

  • Quality feedback, provided while work is in progress, is more useful than waiting until the work is done.
  • Timely feedback helps support students in determining next steps in their learning.
  • Conferencing also provides feedback to the teacher to inform and shape future instruction.

Discussion Question

  • How can classrooms be structured to allow for opportunities for timely one-on-one feedback?

The Impact of Teacher Feedback

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A teacher at St. Jean Brebeuf School in Calgary structures her classes so that she has many opportunities to provide feedback to her students.

Key Points

  • Feedback related to specific learning goals is most effective while learning is occurring.
  • Teachers also benefit from feedback they receive during conversations with students.
  • Teachers need to plan time to give immediate, personal oral feedback.

Discussion Question

  • Where could you insert a feedback opportunity within an upcoming student assignment? What additional planning might be needed to ensure this is an effective use of time?

The Impact of Peer Feedback

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A teacher at St. Jean Brebeuf School in Calgary utilizes peer feedback to impact student learning.

Key Points

  • Feedback should promote thinking.
  • Teachers can provide purposeful feedback prompts to assist students with the peer feedback process.
  • Both the student giving feedback and the one receiving feedback benefit from the feedback experience.

Discussion Question

  • How might peer feedback help my students become more reflective about the quality of their own work?

Helping Students become Resources for One Another

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Grade 6 students and their teachers from Medicine Hat Public Schools are experiencing the benefits of peer feedback.

Key Points

  • Peer feedback can be a powerful tool to support student learning.
  • Students learn to be critical users of the feedback they receive.
  • The teacher's role changes when students learn to give and receive effective feedback.

Discussion Question

  • Where could you plan a peer feedback opportunity in an upcoming student assignment? If your students are new to peer feedback, remember to start small and provide support through modelling, time for practice, and on-the-spot coaching during the feedback experience.

Establishing the Conditions for Peer Feedback

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Teachers from Percy Baxter Middle School found that peer coaching can only be effective when a supportive environment is established and students are able to develop the appropriate skills.

Key Points

  • A supportive classroom environment is required in order for peer feedback to be effective.
  • Peer feedback must be modeled and practiced.
  • Both teachers and students agree that peer feedback must be accurate.

Discussion Questions

  • Why might students be reluctant to engage in peer feedback?
  • What does a supportive classroom environment 'look like'?
  • To what extent do our assessment practices create a supportive environment in our classrooms and school that would allow for effective peer feedback?

The Power of Student Collaboration

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A teacher at St. Elizabeth Seton School in Calgary structures her class so her students have many opportunities to work collaboratively.

Key Points

  • Collaboration provides opportunities for students to think more deeply about their learning.
  • Through discussion and collaboration, students are not only engaged, but also build confidence.
  • Students are provided with many opportunities to practice, and to apply skills and strategies.

Discussion Question

  • Consider where student collaboration would be appropriate in an upcoming lesson. What skills might your students need in order to collaborate successfully?

Multiple Opportunities to Demonstrate Learning

Back to Planning with the End in Mind 

A teacher at Jasper Elementary School uses portfolios as a planning tool to support the growth of the diverse learners in his classroom.

Key Points

  • Portfolios are an effective way to keep track of student progress over time.
  • Students use portfolios to reflect on their understanding of outcomes.
  • Students are given multiple opportunities to demonstrate their learning; time is not the determining factor.

Discussion Question

  • What organization will be required in order to allow this degree of flexibility for students?

Providing a Risk Free Environment for Diverse Learners

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A teacher at Notre Dame High School in Calgary finds that individual student response whiteboards provide a risk-free environment for students to demonstrate their learning.

Key Points

  • Whiteboards provide students with the opportunity to respond in a risk-free environment.
  • This formative assessment tool allows for diversity of student responses.
  • Student responses can alert teachers to any misconceptions students have, which in turn assists teachers in determining next steps in instruction.

Discussion Question

  • How might the use of mini-whiteboards increase student engagement and learning in an upcoming lesson?

Observations and Conversations: Effective Assessment Practices

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A teacher at St. Elizabeth Seton School in Calgary uses observations to find out what her students know and can do.

Key Points

  • The teacher ask questions and observes students at work to determine what students are ready to do or learn next.
  • The teacher circulates to provide timely feedback and to differentiate for student needs.
  • Note how the students value the opportunity to have conversations with the teacher.

Discussion Question

  • Consider where timely feedback might be included in an upcoming student assessment task. What additional planning might be required?

Meaningful Assessment within a Group Context

Back to Summative Assessment

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

Key Points

  • Within the group project, teachers ensure that assessment evidence is gathered from each student’s individual contribution.
  • The teacher involves students in determining characteristics of effective group work.
  • Students are given opportunities to practice a skill prior to being assessed.

Discussion Questions

  • Although it might be considered an efficient strategy, why is it inappropriate to assign a group grade to individual students?
  • Select a project where group grades have previously been assigned. What modifications might be made so as to gather assessment evidence from individual students?

Developing Common Understanding through Collaborative Marking

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Teachers at Notre Dame High School in Calgary engage in collaborative marking to ensure they have a common understanding of quality.

Key Points

  • When teachers engage in collaborative marking, standards are more likely to be consistently applied from class to class.
  • Collaborative marking enhances teachers' professional capacity by providing opportunities to share promising practices.

Discussion Questions

  • How could collaborative marking become part of our school culture without compromising individual teacher responsibility for designing instruction and assessment?
  • How could collaborative marking support teachers who are new to the profession or new to a grade level/subject area?

Setting Clear Targets for Students

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A teacher at Notre Dame High School in Calgary uses exemplars to help students understand the expectations of an assessment task.

Key Points

  • The teacher uses language from the rubric to help students understand what is required.
  • Exemplars assist students to understand various levels of quality.
  • Group discussion provides an opportunity for students to be actively engaged in the task.

Discussion Question

  • What benefits might students experience by participating in this process at a point while their work is in progress?

Developing a Shared Understanding

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A teacher at St. Jean Brebeuf School in Calgary recognizes that when students have a deep understanding of the learning goals, they are better able to achieve them.

Key Points

  • The teacher clarifies the learning goal for herself before planning for instruction and assessment.
  • Students use rubrics and exemplars to understand the characteristics of quality work.
  • Note how the students respond to the process the teacher has implemented.

Discussion Question

  • The process used by the teacher required an investment of time for planning, collecting exemplars and working with students. Why might this investment of time be worthwhile?

Clarifying Standards through Professional Collaboration

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A teacher at McNally High School in Edmonton discusses the essential role of collaboration in developing a common understanding of standards.

Key Points

  • In Alberta, programs of study identify what teachers are to teach.
  • Other documents, particularly at the Grade 12 level, identify the expected standard of performance.
  • For grade levels and subjects where standards documents do not exist, teacher collaboration, along with the program of studies and samples of student work, can support teachers to achieve consistency in assessing student products.

Discussion Questions

  • What benefits might students experience when teachers collaborate to determine standards?
  • What structures need to be in place to support this collaborative work at our school?

Essential Components of the Planning Process

A teacher at McNally High School in Edmonton discusses the many facets of the instructional/assessment planning process.

Please enjoy the video while this section is under development. The Discussion Guide will be available soon.

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