This guest post is written by Shannon Finnegan, a social studies teacher at Hopkins High School in Minnesota.
Throughout my teaching career, I have taught in three vastly different schools: a suburban high school, an inner city 6–12 school, and an alternative high school. In these different settings, I have found that there are certain educational buzzwords and catchphrases that will provoke groans and eye rolls on teacher professional development days regardless of where you work. Words such as differentiation, backwards planning, and standards-based grading are just a few of the phrases that will make teachers cringe on inservice days. When I began teaching at a small school in Brooklyn, New York, I came to loathe one phrase in particular: learning targets. Read more
The title of this post will ring familiar to many as an oath or statement associated with those dedicated individuals who enter the medical profession. While I would not want to minimize the impact or intent of the statement, I believe in the education profession we need to do much more. Read more
Many researchers have identified formative assessment as one of the more powerful practices to raise student achievement (Black & Wiliam, 1998; Hattie, 2009). When speaking of its power, we often compare formative assessment to summative assessment using metaphorical expressions. For example, formative assessment is like “tasting the soup before serving one’s guests,” or the “practice before the big game.” Others have described formative assessment as the rehearsal before the performance, or the “check-up before the autopsy.” Read more
A number of years ago, I had the good fortune to teach a cohort of practicing educators in a Masters in Curriculum program. As a part of this program, teachers were required to complete a culminating project which included action research in their classroom. At the time, action research was a pretty novel concept and many of the teachers were a little intimidated by the thought of doing this kind of research with their students.
As the instructor, I wanted to make sure that the research they conducted was both well done and that the conclusions drawn were meaningful. Read more
My son began his high school career this fall and has had what I would consider a successful transition. He didn’t get used to his new surroundings, teachers, or student population overnight, but with time, he has grown comfortable and really enjoys the new setting. Not everything has gone perfectly, but he has responded when obstacles have arisen. Before school started we talked about what he would need to do this year to find the success he desired; we discussed what would be similar and different between his junior high and high school experiences. He wanted to get it right. But we also had to talk about the unknown, the things that he just wouldn’t know about until he got there, what he wouldn’t understand until he lived it. As uncomfortable as that may have been, this is transition and learning. For teachers, a change in grading practices can run parallel to this experience. Read more
A recent job change has extended my daily commute and as a result I have been listening to audiobooks to pass the time and minimize the frustration with road construction. I know that I am late to this party, but audiobooks are a pretty great way to both decompress after a challenging day and get excited about a new one. I recently listened to The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath and it has been rolling around in my head for a while since I finished it. (This poses a new challenge with audiobooks. With a traditional book, I would flip through the pages and reread different sections. I haven’t quite figured out how to do that with the audio version.) I have been a big fan of the Heath brothers since reading their book Switch, which contained one of my favorite metaphors about the change process and proved incredibly helpful in a variety of settings.
It’s a beautiful noise
And it’s a sound that I love
And it makes me feel good
I’ve been working a lot lately with educators in developing curricular units of study and the corresponding assessments while talking about the learning skills necessary for students to experience success. As an aside, I’ve deliberately not used the label “21st Century” in front of “learning skills” as I think we all understand in 2017 that we are in the 21st century. It’s lost its cache or novelty. Read more
Even now, after many years, I can hear these words: “Your job today is to show what you know.”
Following my passion to support learning spaces with quality evidence of learning has allowed me to visit a variety of settings where student learning was being assessed. From quick checks for understanding, to high-stakes tests, let’s just say I have seen it all.
Yet, one day stands out. Read more
Formative assessment has the potential to truly overcome the negative connotation that assessment tends to create. Read more
“I can see why I should probably do this assessing all the time! You really learn a lot about your kids!”
The words of this teacher, new to the profession and new to reading instruction, were music to my ears. Our collaborative time together had been initiated because deadlines were looming on the reading assessment required by both our district and our provincial government. However, I had asserted that we were actually learning about it because it was essential for reading instruction and great for students. The young teacher initially seemed skeptical so, after practicing a diagnostic assessment with two of her first grade students, when she came to see the true value of the assessment to inform her instruction immediately, I knew we had made a breakthrough. Read more