We have found a formative assessment plan for our Algebra I learners that is working for us. We have always struggled with the idea of the generic 4-point rubric, because it didn’t give our learners enough feedback. If you want to see some examples, you can search on formative assessment in the blog and find several.
Our team has now begun to think about using the 4-point rubric to help our learners understand our expectations with regard to effort, listening, questioning, collaboration, homework completion and other non-graded skills that we want them have. We have used the assessment below twice, once in February and then again in March. Our learners level themselves and then write about their growth and areas where improvement can/should occur.
Only now have we started the process of using the document above to calibrate our perception with our student’s perception of these important topics. Even without the calibration, my learners seem to use our rubric to help self-reflect and create action steps.
The following is a reflection written by RM about her understanding in Algebra I on February 9, 2011.
“This semester I have really improved on helping others in the classroom. I feel like I now go around more to try and assist others who don’t have the right answer and don’t understand what’s going on. This makes me feel like I am really helping and participating in the classroom. I have started to ask more questions to Ms. Gough when I don’t completely understand what we are talking about and I ask my table mates first to see what they think. This is another way of better learning!! I feel like this is a great way to start off the semester.”
Then, a reflection written by RM about her understanding in Algebra I on March 17, 2011:
“During this semester I have learned new things and tried my best to comprehend them and apply them to everything that we do in class. During the course of this semester what has really helped me is during class after we have finished a problem we get up and help other people that don’t get it; this method has really helped me to find other peoples mistakes and repeat my knowledge of the lesson we are learning. Also during class when we finish problems we check with other people who think they are right but we did not get the same answer which helps you to either find what you have done wrong or find what the other person has done wrong and that is your chance to explain to them why they got something wrong or why that concept makes sense, both thing I have done this semester that really makes me more confident about what I know. During Office Hours when my friends and I do our homework we pull out our phones do a problem and then check it together, then we do what we do in class which is helping a friend if they didn’t get it right or they don’t understand. The story above has really helped me when it comes to test day or as we sometimes call it in class “the championship game” which is when we show what we have learned that unit and apply it on the test. The things we do in class I feel makes me very confident and helps when we get to the test because I know that I know what was going on in class and that really helps me.”
I am thrilled to witness RM’s growth in knowledge and confidence. The skill of comparing thinking to find a solution is incredibly powerful and important. Wouldn’t it be nice if our country’s leaders would take the time to sit down with each other and hear what the other side thinks and learn from each other? One of RM’s greatest strengths is that she is willing to listen and consider another solution. She is definitely a lead-learner in Algebra I, and she demonstrates this by her willingness to teach and to be taught by others.
The following is a reflection written by SJ about his understanding in Algebra I in February.
“I think that my performance in math class since January 4, 2011 is pretty good, but could be better. I consistently focus on tasks, but I require occasional encouragement from Ms. Gough to do my work. I usually participate when working in groups. I ask questions most of the time when I need help, but I don’t really help others learn as much. I listen well in class and I think my questions keep myself and others engaged during class. I feel that most recently, I have hardly forgotten any homework and I usually complete deep practice. I believe that for formative assessments, I don’t prepare as much as I should. I am at a level 2 on every aspect except on the part that says “I do not get serious about my learning…”
And then, SJ’s reflection in March.
“I believe that I am constantly improving in math class. I have fun while getting better in your class. I struggle with doing well on the first chance tests. While I usually nail the second chance tests, I usually need the extra practice before the first chance tests to do better on those as well. For example, I got a really disappointing grade on the first chance test on factoring. I really went over that test and improved. I believe that I can be an honors level math student if I put my mind to it. I got a 92 on our last test. That is one of many examples of my mathematical abilities. I hope that I never stop learning and that from here I can only move forward.”
Isn’t it great to see how SJ has self-corrected since the middle of February? In February, SJ wrote about how his performance could improve. It has! I am most impressed with SJ’s work on the polynomials test. I loved his approach. He worked in class to make most of his corrections. The next morning he arrived before school with more questions. In fact, he had highlighted notes that said ask “Ms. Gough about this.” He was at level 2 in February and is now a solid level 3.
The following is a reflection written by WAM about her understanding in Algebra I.
“So far in Algebra I this semester, I have learned a lot, but have also been challenged. I am almost always focused in class, and trying to finish the task at hand. Sometimes, my table team and I get distracted by each other, and get off task. Mrs. Gough encourages us to stay on topic, so we can learn more. In our class, we have many group activities, where we have to work as a team. I participate in these assignments, and help others if they do not understand. I have learned from these group activities that when my team is there to help me along the way, I learn the material better, and it is clearer. When I do not understand something, I ask my table members for help. If my team doesn’t know, I ask my other classmates, or Mrs. Gough. I know that when I ask questions, it helps me have a much better understanding. Also, to practice, and to learn, I do my homework. I do my homework every night, and come to Office Hours regularly to complete it. Sometimes, I forget to do deep practice, which is an opportunity that I should take. I know that doing deep practice helps to learn from your mistakes so you don’t make them again. I always study and put my best effort into the first chance tests, and the formative assessments. I know that putting a lot of effort into them makes me understand what areas I need to work on. I like the fact that we can have a second chance test, because it makes you learn the concepts that you didn’t know when you took the first test. Over all, I have put in a lot of effort, and try my best to improve.”
And then her reflection in March:
“Since the last interim, I feel like I have improved a lot in Algebra. I have started to take math more seriously, and focus on my studying. Before, I made good grades in math, but I think I was learning the material, but it wasn’t sticking with me. Now, I am trying to really understand the material, so that sticks with me. Since then, I have tried to study my hardest to prepare for the first chance test, rather than using the second chance test as a comfort. When I go into the First Chance test with a mindset of thinking that my best and final work has to be now, I do better. If I try my best on the first chance test, then the second chance test is only used to make my understanding better, rather than a re-take of the test. In the first Interim, my first chance tests weren’t so great. The more answers I got incorrect on the first test, the more problems I had to redo on the second. The more problems I have to redo, the more likely I am to get some problems wrong. Lesson learned, put all your effort into the first time. Also, since the first interim, I have put more effort into my homework. Before, I rush through my homework, just so I could finish it. I would sometimes do deep practice, but would frequently forget. I think that before I was being lazy with my homework. Now, I do my homework with more effort. I do each problem, then check the answers, and if I get it wrong, I keep trying it until I understand how. Overall, I am putting more effort into the class, and more effort into my learning.”
I confirm that she is living what she has written. While I think the algebra that we are learning is important, the lessons of effort and work ethic that WAM expresses above are much more valuable skills to learn. I am very proud of her learning and her dedication to the learning of others.
Once our expectations were clear, our learners begin to work to meet them.
Isn’t it great that they talk about their learning?