PD: Assessment (a.k.a Falconry) – feedback

Identifying problems as a way to move others takes two long-standing skills and turns them upside down. First, in the past, the best [learners] were adept at accessing information. Today, they must be skilled at curating it— sorting through the massive troves of data and presenting to others the most relevant and clarifying pieces. Second, in the past, the best [learners] were skilled at answering questions (in part because they had information their prospects lacked). Today, they must be good at asking questions— uncovering possibilities, surfacing latent issues, and finding unexpected problems. (Pink, 132 pag.)

When we improve and grow in our art of questioning, we serve our learners. We must be fearless about uncovering possibilities, surfacing latent issues, and finding unexpected problems  before it’s too late – before the gap between what I know and what I need to know gets too big.

We met yesterday to continue our learning on assessment.  Our stated purpose for yesterday’s learning:

  • I can describe the difference between formative and summative assessment.
  • I can identify types of formative assessment that are employed by my team and share student work.

Additional purposes we are working toward include:

  • I can analyze student work to plan for formative assessment next steps.
  • I can contribute to the questions and formative assessment strategies of others to move learning forward.

We started with the mini-lesson on summative and formative assessment.  I wanted to begin to connect dots. The summer reading on the Art of Questioning connects to Greg Bamford’s work with us on growth mindset which connects to assessment.  Little did I know how important these connections would be during this hour of professional development.

The mini-lesson started with a quote from Make just one change: Teach students to ask their own questions.

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.)

Formative assessment and actionable feedback empowers teacher-learners and student-learners to ask questions, make new connections, and understand in new and different ways.

Asking the right question enough questions is key.  Persistence is required. We must stick with it until we uncover possibilities, surface latent issues, and find unexpected problems.

The mini-lesson reviewed formative assessment – assessment for learning – and summative assessment – assessment of learning.  Today we wanted to focus on actionable feedback. Do we offer learners feedback that helps them grow and learn? Do we give feedback that spurs action? How might we?

In groups of three, teachers shared an assessment with student data used to assess learning.  The conversations centered around the following questions.

    • What was this assessing?
    • What information did you learn about this student-learner?
    • What action(s) did you take based on what you learned?
    • What action(s) did the learner take based on this learning?
    • Is this formative assessment, summative assessment, or both?

Feedback in the form of What if…, I like…, and I wonder… served to deepen the understanding of action steps and strategies to forward learning.

In each sharing session we heard strategies and actions taken to uncover possibilities, surface latent issues, and find unexpected problems. This is a purpose of formative assessment.  When we uncover possibilities, surface latent issues, and find unexpected problems what actions do we take on behalf of the learner, and what actions do we coach the learner to take? Worth repeating:

Today, [educators] must be good at asking questions— uncovering possibilities, surfacing latent issues, and finding unexpected problems. (Pink, 132 pag.)

It is the art of questioning.

I wonder if my faculty understands that the feedback they give me about these sessions is an opportunity for formative assessment and actionable feedback. It is important to me that I serve a purpose and make a contribution in our community.  Their feedback helps me plan for the next learning experience, become better at differentiation, and learn more about our community.  I read and reread every written comment.  I am grateful for both the warm and cool feedback.  I hope they know that they can use I like…, I wish…, I wonder…, and what if… to offer constructive feedback.

While every sentence of feedback is important to me, here is a sampling of feedback comments that I appreciate.

I can make sure I’m encouraging each child along the way. We will not assume the action taken, instead we will help them figure out how they are thinking. We are learning while they are learning. With my example I can take videos of the child and show them how they are working at each task and goal that they want to reach. Once I show them they can plan the next step for them to succeed.

Being more aware of your assessments benefit the child in the learning process. Learning about what other teams have done and what they are currently doing has sparked some new ideas.

How do we include the students in the action that needs to happen after a formative assessment? I’d love to hear ways in which other teachers have done this successfully.

I think talking about an example of an assessment between each other definitely helped us understand how we can assess our kids better. It takes all of us talking together to really understand and learn how to help these kids along the way. We feed off each other when we give examples.

I would have loved to had more of a working session with others to add, amend, and create new assessment ideas. It was nice to talk about ONE assessment from another grade level, but I think a greater jigsaw, among grade levels that are similar (K, 1,2 and 3,4 or 4,5,6) might be more beneficial to those seeking new or different assessment.

Feeding up, feeding back, and feeding forward – how do I know that I am doing these?

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.)

Are we getting far enough down the path? Are we providing enough insight? Are we  interested in stepping to the next higher level? Are we asking the right questions?

I aspire to be a Falconer.


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

Pink, Daniel H. To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth about Moving Others. New York: Riverhead, 2012. 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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