Tag Archives: rubrics

Perseverance, Tenacity, Risk-taking – #LL2LU with @k8burton

Kate Burton (@k8burton), our science goddess, and I have been discussing assessment.  One of the many things I love and admire about Kate is her willingness to experiment to learn and grow.  The label science goddess makes many giggle, but she approaches everything through the lens of a scientist.  What if we experiment with an assessment plan? What if we use the Leading Learners to Level Up philosophy to communicate expectations and a path to grow? What if we experiment with a system of feedback that includes self-assessment, peer-to-peer and teacher assessment?

Kate and I met Wednesday morning to talk about Leading Learners to Level Up and how she might incorporate it into her assessment plan.  It was awesome!  I’m sure I expected to talk about the scientific method and the content of her course.  Kate came with a list of what she areas of growth for her student-learners.  Her list included persistence, tenacity,  curiosity, attitude, communication, open to constructive criticism, and the ability to ask questions.  She uses science content to teach and model these learning targets.

Using an interview method, she talked and I took (messy) notes as fast as I could write.  Kate started with her list and elaborated to offer me context and additional information.  The interview protocol really calls for me to listen and reflect back what I hear.  I should not interject my experience. I should listen for what is important to the interviewee.  I failed twice and told a story.  I am not the interviewer I will become.

After collecting lots of notes, we noticed two areas where Kate added more detail while we were talking.  Together, we discussed perseverance and tenacity and what Kate would like to encourage in her learners.  Our draft for the target for perseverance and tenacity is that every child will be able to say (and d0):

I can keep working when things go wrong to learn from the process.  I can learn from the experience and try again.

But, what if I can’t? What if I am not there yet? What can I do to get on a path to success? And, what if I’m already there? What can I do to level up?  Here’s our first draft of a learning progression to lead learners to level up.

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We also worked on risk-taking.  Our draft for the target for risk-taking is that every child will be able to say (and d0):

I can risk being wrong to test my ideas and strategies and appreciate what I gan through my risks.

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What if we post these where our young learners can see and refer to them?  Will they be able to calibrate where they are and ask Kate questions to learn and grow?  Will they begin to coach each other? How will having a common vocabulary and understanding influence this learning community?

These are drafts.  We intend to ask our learners for their feedback. We’d also love to know what you think.  Please leave us a comment if you can and will add to our thinking.

Feedback please – a focus on progress – an update

One additional revision of Julia’s rubric has been made based on feedback from our friend and colleague, Angél W. Kytle (@akytle).  In her comment, she asks

“… A couple of questions– first, do you need the number? Why have the kids rank themselves, especially if they are reflecting and also describing evidence of their assessment of themselves? …” (read all of the comments)

The numbers are actually quite important to me. They are not for quantitative purposes. They are communicating levels to move through. Our target is level 3, always. The numbers indicate what level you are on and offer one way (or two) to level up. Of course, once you’ve reached the target, we want you to stretch and level up if possible. I use the following visual when presenting and teaching about leveled assessments.

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While I must be frustrating her, Julia continues to think, learn, and prototype assessments.

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I love how Julia continues to act on and ask for feedback. Angél’s question help us move another step in the right direction.  We value and appreciate any feedback, warm or cool, that you might also offer.

Feedback please – a focus on progress

Building trust and relationship is critically important in growing and completing feedback loops.  I’ve been co-teaching World Language with Julia Kuipers as often as my schedule allows.  If you’ve read the posts, you know she is an excellent teacher.

Earlier this week, I read You’ve Been Doing a Fantastic Job. Just One Thing … from The New York Times. (HT @boadams1) The following passage stuck with me.

 “Those who had just started learning the language wanted the positive feedback, while those who had been taking the French classes longer were more interested in hearing about what they did wrong and how to correct it.

Why is that? One reason is that as people gain expertise, feedback serves a different purpose. When people are just beginning a venture, they may not have much confidence, and they need encouragement. But experts’ commitment ‘is more secure than novices and their focus is on their progress,’ the paper’s authors said.”

I loved receiving the following email from Julia.

Screen Shot 2013-04-12 at 8.20.39 PMJulia writes “I turned the student’s ideas into a self assessment for the 6th Grade ELD langauge project.” Awesome! Building a rubric from student ideas.  Here’s her draft:

I was off campus at a conference.  Here is my quick reply.

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I wondered what might come next.  How would Julia react to my feedback? What changes, if any, would she make?

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I really appreciate that she planned time in her schedule to review the feedback and work on another iteration.

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What a transformation! I bet that we are not finished with this rubric, but I think the next step is to use it with students.  They will have valuable feedback, and we want to continue to refine our assessments with their input.

To show Julia’s engagement in the process (and complete the communication trail), here is the rest of our exchange.

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To reiterate:

“… as people gain expertise, feedback serves a different purpose.”

Julia and I invite you to offer your ideas, opinions, and expertise to help us improve so that we may better serve our learners.  Any and all feedback is welcome.


Tugend, Alina. “SHORTCUTS; How to Give Effective Feedback, Both Positive and Negative.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 06 Apr. 2013. Web. 12 Apr. 2013.

PBL Field Guide: Where are you starting?

I’m reading Reinventing Project-Based Learning: Your Field Guide to Real-World Projects in the Digital Age by Suzie Boss and Jane Krauss published by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE).  This field guide encourages the user to focus on and record details that matter.  Blogging these reflections is strongly encouraged.

The first reflection asks “Where are you starting?” [p. 10]

  • Where are you starting your journey?  Why?
  • If you have already used the project approach with students, what did you like or dislike?
  • What would you like to learn to do better in the future?
  • Do you have regular opportunities to collaborate with colleagues?
  • Where do you turn first to sound out new ideas for your classroom?

Our Learning for Life vision statement calls for six essential actions in our community to embrace the challenges and opportunities for 21st century teaching and learning.

  • Integrated Studies – Studies that integrate rather than separate
  • PBL – Problems that require critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration
  • 21st Century Learning Environments – Schedules and Spaces that fit learning
  • PLC/Critical Friends – Teachers in teams supporting learning and innovation
  • Balanced Assessment – Assessments and Feedback that promote learning and growth
  • Global Citizenship – Content and Relationships that connect us to the larger world and the world to us

I have been using pbl in the math since 1996.  In 1996, I was appointed as the laptop program coordinator at The Kiski School.  I embarked on a journey to develop real-world data collection lessons for our learners to search for data online to mathematically model data, real data.  See Phases of the Moon…Middle School Connections with Trigonometry and Science, Stopping Distances, and Turnpikes, Toll Roads, Express Lanes as three examples.

Since 2010, Bo Adams and I have been facilitating a PBL course called Synergy for our 8th grader learners.  Synergy is an interdisciplinary, non-departmentalized, non-graded, community-issues, problem-solving course.  See Synergy 8 Update – Week 3, Synergy 8 Update – Week 3, Part II…Game Plans from Bo’s blog It’s About Learning, Synergy: a course I’d love to take, then teach from J. Burk’s blog Quantum Progress, and Synergy: Complexity~Simplicity, Collaboration & Brainstorming from my blog.

I like teaching with inquiry and data collection through projects because of the engagement, interest, and questions from my learners.  They are in control of the curriculum.  A book does not bind their learning.  Their questions lead to new questions and new learning.  They find application of what is to be learned.  I like that my classroom is student-centered, conversational, loud and active.  Learners feel empowered to ask and answer questions.  Watch our learners in actions (Synergy 8 Update – Week 3, Part II…Game Plans and Synergy: Complexity~Simplicity, Collaboration & Brainstorming) to have a glimpse of how in charge of their learning they have become now that they are in a PBL course.

Bo and I continue to work on assessment and feedback for our learners.  The same is true for our Algebra I team.  We are working on a formative assessment plan for our learners to help them level up in the skills and competencies of our essential learnings.  For examples of our rubrics see:

We have a good start, but assessment and feedback is an important area of learning for my teams and me.

Bo and I serve as the co-directors of our Professional Learning Communities (PLC), which provides us daily and weekly opportunities to collaborate with colleagues.  I meet daily with the math and science teachers in the Junior High.  Bo and I meet weekly with the JH English, JH History, and JH Language teachers.  We also co-facilitate the PLC Facilitators PLC.  We regularly sound out ideas for essential learnings, projects, lessons, pedagogy, and assessment in these team meetings.

The Algebra I team practices pbl as a team and conducts peer observations as a form of lesson study.  See Beginnings of Lesson Study ~ We rather than me and Lesson Study, Observation 2.0, Algebra I, Jet Plane for examples.  Bo and I plan, implement, and debrief regularly to improve and hone our skills.  Our most important team of collaborators is comprised of our Synergy learners.  As a 26-member team, we learn together.  We brainstorm ideas and strategies together.  We give each other feedback.

So, that’s where I am… Where are you on your PBL journey?   How have you constructed your support and learning team?  Who and/or where do you turn for motivation?  Who serves as your sounding board?  How are you using current pedagogy and technology tools to learn by doing?


Boss, Suzie, and Jane Krauss. Reinventing Project-based Learning:  Your Field Guide to Real-world Projects in the Digital Age. Eugene, Or.: International Society for Technology in Education, 2007. Print.