Our team has been immersed in creating formative assessments, assessments for learning. We have been developing these assessments based on the work of Tom Guskey, Rick Stiggins, Jan Chappius, Doug Reeves, Bob Marzano and many more.
We have tried to convert
Level 1: beginning,
Level 2: progressing,
Level 3: proficient or
Level 4: exceptional
to kid-friendly, kid-understandable language. We have been saying…Level 3 is the target; it is where we want you to be as Algebra I learners. Think of Level 1 as what should have learned as 6th graders and Level 2 as what was learned as 7th graders. Level 4 is a blend of Algebra II and Algebra I Honors. Level 4 is the stuff that you will see later in your math career; it is the challenge for those ready for more. While not totally accurate, it has helped our young learner understand and gauge how much work needs to be done.
These descriptions worked well as long as we were learning about linear functions. These descriptions failed me this week. My descriptions failed us this week. Modeling learning, we try again. Here’s the new attempt.
Level 1: I’m getting my feet wet.
Level 2: I’m comfortable with support.
Level 3: I’m confident with the process.
Level 4: I’m ready for the deep end.
The progression of the images and ideas speak to me and to the 2 teachers and 4 students that worked with me on this after school. We start off seeing the ocean, but we are only willing to get our feet wet. We are getting our feet wet. In the kiddie pool we can experiment with getting soaked. We are comfortable in the water but need and want lots of support. In the deep end of the big pool we can swim confidently. Back in the ocean we can maneuver without as much support. Lifelong learning and teamwork tell us that there will always be more to explore, and we will always need to be careful in the deep end. We won’t abandon all of our support and safety.
There are multiple ideas and benefits to these formative assessments.
- Our learners have a much clearer way to gauge their success on meeting the standard for each essential learning. They self-assess their level with these formative assessments; they have immediate feedback on what they should know and where they are in the process.
- Questions are much clearer; we now communicate using a common language. No longer to we field “I don’t get it.” I cannot say this with enough emphasis. We NEVER hear “I don’t get it. I ‘m lost.” We are asked “I am at level 2, will you help me get to level 3?” “I have learned that I’m at level 3; how do I get to level 4?” Even better, QB dropped by after school and said “Ms. Gough, I understand the distributive property, but I’m still having trouble when I multiply two binomials, can you help me?” And the follow-up question was “Okay, now tell me does this show good work? Am I communicating my ideas? And are my conventions good too? How is my organization?” WOW!
- Learners are motivated to level up. Differentiation is not only possible it is motivating. MR – very quiet, hardly every speaks unless called on – started talking to me in the hall when she was 2 classrooms away from me. “Ms. Gough, I got the level 4 problems last night! I had to use your work on the webpage, but I now understand and can do it myself!” ER said “Me too. I’m now at level 3 because I could work with your work.” Both learners feel success even though they are not working at the same level.
- Homework is differentiated based on level. Students now have some choice in their homework. We post our homework in levels; you can see it on the table of specifications in the document below or on our webpage. One of my teammates, @bcgymdad, says it best. He asks his learner – we all do now – to try the first three problems from the next level. “Say you are at level 2; start with the level 3 homework. If you struggle too much with the first three problems, then drop back to level 2 and do that homework. But try, try to level up. Challenge yourself; you can do it. We will help you.”
- Intervention and enrichment are now easier and often self-directed. Our learners how have choice in their learning and direction for how to improve. We are very clear. Everyone must get to level 3 in order to be proficient in our course. We are offering enrichment and intervention at the same time. When we individualize face-to-face one-on-one instruction, we answer the learner’s questions. They tell us where they are and where they want to go. With intervention, we sometimes have to direct their questions, but at least we are doing that on an individual basis rather than in whole group discussion.
Here’s the specific formative assessment my learners are discussing.
The benefits to the teacher, the lead facilitator of learning, seem huge. The benefits to the learners seem huge too. I’d love to know what you think. We, my team, would love to know what you think.
As @thadpersons asks: What speaks to you about this? What do you want to know more about?