#MICON13: Leading Learners to Level Up – or Ask; Don’t Tell

How might we design assessments that teach, support questioning, and motivate learning?  How might we bright spot or highlight what learners know rather than what they do not know? What if we design and transform assessments, non-graded assessments, to offer learners a path to “level up” in their learning?

#MICON13: Leading Learners to Level Up – or Ask; Don’t Tell

“Questions are the way points on the path of wisdom.” ~ Grant Lichtman. This session will focus on the art of questioning as a formative assessment tool. Work on becoming a falconer…leading your learners to level up through questions rather than lectures. Come prepared to develop formative assessment strategies and documents to share with learners to help them calibrate their understanding and decode their struggles. Be prepared to share your assessments with others for feedback and suggestions.

Foundational ideas:

By learning to insert feedback loops into our thought, questioning, and decision-making process, we increase the chance of staying on our desired path. Or, if the path needs to be modified, our midcourse corrections become less dramatic and disruptive. (Lichtman, 49 pag.)

But there are many more subtle barriers to communication as well, and if we cannot, or do not chose to overcome these barriers, we will encounter life decisions and try to solve problems and do a lot of falconing all by ourselves with little, if any, success. Even in the briefest of communications, people develop and share common models that allow them to communicate effectively.  If you don’t share the model, you can’t communicate. If you can’t communicate, you can’t teach, learn, lead, or follow.  (Lichtman, 32 pag.)

If we want to support students in learning, and we believe that learning is a product of thinking, then we need to be clear about what we are trying to support. (Ritchhart, Church, and Morrison, 5 pag.)

In order to engage in high-quality assessment, teachers need to first identify specific learning targets and then to know whether the targets are asking students to demonstrate their knowledge, reasoning skills, performance skills, or ability to create a quality product.   The teacher must also understand what it will take for students to become masters of the learning targets.  It is not enough that the teacher knows where students are headed; the students must also know where they are headed, and both the teacher and the students must be moving in the same direction.  (Conzemius and O’Neill,  66 pag.)

If you are a teacher in a district with conventional report cards, you can still use the two grading principles that honor the commitment to learning: (1) assign grades that reflect student achievement of intended learning outcomes, and (2) adopt grading policies that support and motivate student effort and learning.  You can do this by clearly communicating your ‘standards’ (in the sense of expectations for work quality) to students and grading on that basis. (Brookhart, 23 pag.)

The idea of using formative assessment for practice work and not taking a summative grade until students have had the opportunity to learn the knowledge and skills for which you are holding them accountable can be applied directly to your classroom assessments in a traditional grading context. (Brookhart, 24 pag.)

We want more students to experience the burst of energy that comes from asking questions that lead to making new connections, feel a greater sense of urgency to seek answers to questions on their own, and reap the satisfaction of actually understanding more deeply the subject matter as a result of the questions they asked.  (Rothstein and Santana, 151 pag.)

The excitement of learning, the compelling personal drive to take one more step on the path towards wisdom, comes when we try to solve a problem we want to solve, when we want to solve, when we see a challenge and say yes, I can meet it.  Great teachers lead us just far enough down a path so we can challenge for ourselves. They provide us just enough insight so we can work toward a solution that makes us, makes me want to jump up and shout out the solution to the world, makes me want to step to the next higher level. Great teachers somehow make us want to ask the questions that they want us to answer, overcome the challenge that they, because they are our teacher, believe we need to overcome. (Lichtman, 20 pag.)

Session structure (120 minutes):

15 mins      Introductions – who we are, what if we explore and prototype
15 mins      Ignite (ish) and challenge
30 mins     Ideation and prototype 1
15 mins      Small group feedback with Q&A
20 mins     Prototype 2 refined from feedback
20 mins     Share session
05 mins     Wrap up and conclusions

Examples of works in progress:

_________________________

Resources cited:

Brookhart, Susan M. Grading and Learning: Practices That Support Student Achievement. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree, 2011. Print

Conzemius, Anne; O’Neill, Jan. The Power of SMART Goals: Using Goals to Improve Student Learning. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree, 2006. Print.

Lichtman, Grant, and Sunzi. The Falconer: What We Wish We Had Learned in School. New York: IUniverse, 2008. Print.

Ritchhart, Ron, Mark Church, and Karin Morrison. Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2011. Print.

Rothstein, Dan, and Luz Santana. Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education, 2011. Print.

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